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 New Jersey, the prison population grew by 359 percent from 1980 to 1999. The crime rate in New Jersey is about 22 percent lower than the national average. Yet the state’s prisons hold a higher portion of drug offenders than any other state. Since its peak in 1999, New Jersey has reduced the number of prisoners to 23,452 by 2013. New Jersey spent $1.511 billion on corrections in 2013. At the same time, crime in New Jersey dropped by 66 percent from its height in 1980 to 2013. And the national crime rate was cut in half.
What caused this drop? Was it the explosion in incarceration? Or was it something else?