Pennsylvania Fact Sheet: What Caused the Crime Decline?

Pennsylvania spent $2.111 billion on corrections in 2013. At the same time, crime in Pennsylvania dropped from its height in 1980 to 2013 by 29 percent.

February 12, 2015

What Caused the Crime Decline? examines 14 different theories for the massive decline in crime across the country over the last two decades. It provides a rigorous empirical analysis conducted by a team of economics and criminal justice researchers on over 40 years of data, gathered from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities.

Over the past 40 years, states across the country have sought to fight crime by implementing policies to increase incarceration. The result: The United States is now the largest jailor in the world. With 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of its prisoners. In Pennsylvania, “[o]ne in 200 adult Pennsylvanians is currently incarcerated in a Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution.”

Pennsylvania’s prison population hit its peak in 2009 and plateaued at 50,312 by 2013. Pennsylvania spent $2.111 billion on corrections in 2013. At the same time, crime in the state dropped from its height in 1980 to 2013 by 29 percent. And the national crime rate was cut in half. 

What caused this drop? Was it the explosion in incarceration? Or was it something else?

Pennsylvania Fact Sheet: What Caused the Crime Decline? by The Brennan Center for Justice