The urgent need for criminal justice reform is undercut by myths of rising or out-of-control crime — what President Trump, in his inaugural address, referred to as “American carnage.” According to this rhetoric, keeping the public safe requires ever harsher, more punitive criminal justice policies, such as three-strikes laws and mandatory-minimum sentences. Without these measures, it is often argued, a greater number of citizens will fall prey to the supposedly rampant violence and disorder plaguing the nation.
But the numbers tell a very different story. The Brennan Center’s authoritative and reliable analyses show that crime rates have declined substantially since the early 1990s, with crime in America’s largest cities (both the overall crime rate and the violent crime rate) remaining at or near historic lows. We need public policy that is based on facts and data, not politics or scare-mongering. By updating our research several times a year, we offer current, comprehensive snapshots of crime in the United States — debunking false narratives about a national “crime wave” and providing the facts about crime to policymakers and the public.