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New Analysis: States Lowered Crime and Incarceration Rates Simultaneously

The 27 states that have done so are diverse, including red and blue states from all corners of the country.

June 8, 2016

New York, NY – In the last decade, a majority of states across the country lowered crime and incarceration at the same time, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

In the last ten years, 27 states have decreased both crime and imprisonment. Nationally, the imprisonment rate dropped 7 percent, while crime dropped 23 percent.

“This data contradicts the common myth that prisons always keep down crime. It’s clearly possible to reduce incarceration and crime at the same time,” said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, senior counsel at the Brennan Center and co-author of the analysis. “The twenty-seven states that have done so are diverse, including red and blue states from all corners of the country. We’re taking slow steps toward reducing mass incarceration, but there is still room to improve.”

Although the numbers also show Southern states have had some of the biggest declines in imprisonment rates, many remain the largest incarcerators in the country. Texas, for example, has reduced its imprisonment rate by 15 percent but still has the seventh highest imprisonment rate in the country.

The fact sheet also notes that in some states, incarceration rates increased while crime rates decreased. In North Dakota and New Hampshire, both crime rates and imprisonment rates increased.

“An increase in imprisonment does not always correlate to a decrease in crime, or vice versa,” note Eisen and co-author Jay Cullen, a researcher at the Center.

The new resource was previewed Tuesday by The Atlantic.

Eisen and Cullen analyzed data from all 50 states on imprisonment and crime from 2006 (before bipartisan criminal justice reforms generally began) through 2014 (the most recent year of data). The new fact sheet updates points originally outlined in the Brennan Center’s Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, which puts forth a new nationwide plan to cut state imprisonment levels.