September 26, 2022

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For years the United States was known as the incarceration capital of the world. This was largely due to the “tough on crime” stance that started back in the 1970s. Supporters of putting more people in prison always claimed that this was the only way to keep crime rates down around the country. Now, a new study shows that may not be true. 

It was in early August that the Brennan Center for Justice studied the crime and imprisonment rates in the country over a ten-year period. For the most part, both crime and incarceration rates dropped around the country in the time period studied. The Northeastern states saw the biggest drop in both incarceration and crime rates, while Massachusetts had the biggest reduction in both areas. On the other hand, the Midwest is still going strong in both incarceration and crime rates, with only a one percent decrease in their rate of imprisonment. 

Interestingly, the report also noted that some states have actually seen their imprisonment rates increase. There were 16 of these states in total and over half also have poverty rates above the national average, and many were particularly devastated by the opioid crisis. 

“This is great news,” says Patrick Barone, Michigan criminal defense attorney and owner of Barone Defense Firm. “For far too long, the incarceration rates across the country have been ridiculous. It is certainly time for individual states to start doing something about it. Unfortunately, there is still much more improvement that must be done.” 

Cleary, getting tough on crime is not doing anything for the incarceration or crime rates around the country. Now, legislators are finally starting to realize it, too. Last year, President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act into law. Even before then, however, more and more lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are clamoring for relaxing laws every day.

The United States may still be considered the incarceration capital of the world, or at least the Western democracy, but this new report certainly shows it is making clear strides to change that. One can only hope they continue doing so.