Virginia Fact Sheet: What Caused the Crime Decline?

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 five percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of its prisoners.

In Virginia, one of every 89 adults was incarcerated in 2013. In 1995, the state eliminated parole and implemented a “truth-in-sentencing” system requiring state inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. This led to drastic increases in the incarcerated population, to about 37,000 by 2013. Virginia spent $1.174 billion on corrections in 2013. At the same time, crime in Virginia dropped by 52 percent from its height in 1981 to 2013. And the national crime rate was also cut in half. 

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

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