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.
Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. One in 75 adult Louisianans is behind bars, nearly twice the national average. In 2013, the Times-Picayune reported that “Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.” The state gives financial rewards to local sheriffs to keep jails full with state prisoners, a perverse incentive that has contributed to the increase in the number of prisoners to almost 40,000 by 2013. In 2013, Louisiana spent $713 million on corrections. At the same time, from its height in 1993 to 2013, crime in Louisiana dropped by 40 percent.
What caused this drop? Was it the explosion in incarceration? Or was it something else?