US Violent Crime Fell in 2008 as Incarceration Rates Decrease

The following information was released by the Justice Policy Institute:

Violent crime in the United States fell by 1.9 percent and property crimes by 0.8 percent in 2008, according to analysis released by the Justice Policy Institute. The analysis, which was based on the full 2008 FBI Uniform Crime Report, found this drop in crime coincided with a drop in incarceration from previous years. The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, hailed the news, saying it bolsters the case for a connection between effective alternatives to incarceration and public safety.

“Reducing incarceration rates is not only fiscally responsible, it is also the humane thing to do,” said Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute. This week's report shows that we can preserve public safety while expanding the use of community supervision and improving the systems that help people be successful, including treatment, housing and job services.”

According to the analysis, the number of violent crimes fell in three of the four regions of the country. The number of property crimes fell in two of the four regions of the country; both the Northeastern and Southern regions experienced an increase of less than 3 percent in the number of property crimes.

While jails and prison populations continue to grow, the growth rate slowed in 2008, coinciding with the drop in crime. From 2007-2008, violent crime fell 1.9 percent while the growth rates of prisons and jails slowed, suggesting that lowering the number of people incarcerated can be an effective way to increase public safety.

From 2005-2006, violent crime had increased slightly (1.9 percent), while prison and jail populations also grew (by 2 and 2.5 percent, respectively). However, as the growth rate of prisons and jails has slowed, the violent crime rate declined as well, down 1.4 percent from 2006 to 2007.

"This data also confirms that increasing incarceration does not necessarily mean improvements in public safety. We should not starve our education and human service budgets to grow jails and prisons," Velzáquez said. "Focusing on increasing investments in people and communities is what will ensure that these crime numbers continue to drop."

The Justice Policy Institute cautions that no single factor can explain changes in crime across the nation, or within a jurisdiction. It assembled key findings from these new crime and prison surveys to put the new figures in their appropriate context.
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