Reducing the Prison Population Doesn’t Increase Crime
Many were afraid of California's Public Safety Realignment policy, but research shows that reductions in the prison population haven't increased crime. Here's how perceptions play a big role in what we think about criminal justice.
Many Americans oppose policies that create alternatives to prison sentences for those who break the law. There’s sometimes a fear that reducing the prison population will cause waves of new crime, a perception that it is simply not a safe practice.
For this reason, some were quite wary of California’s Public Safety Realignment policy of 2011, an attempt to deal with the state’s overcrowded prisons by taking certain classes of low-level offenders out of the system. Now, those with non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenses serve out their sentences in county jails rather than state prisons, and the prison population has dropped as a result.
But despite the fear of violence, California hasn’t seen wild increases in crime. In fact, crime rates now are the same as they would have been if the prison population had remained at 2010 levels. It seems as though the fear of increased crime was much more of a perception than a real threat.
It turns out perception is a recurring theme when it comes to criminal justice policy. Marie Gottschalk explains how past perceptions of escalating crime helped lead the U.S. to the situation of punitive prison policies. Even after crime rates had stopped rising, politicians continued to pass harsh sentencing laws.
Another interesting realm of perception in the criminal justice system is the intersection with mental illness. People have a tendency to see the mentally ill as violent criminals, when in reality the vast majority are not. Cases involving mentally ill individuals may have a certain unique or sensational element that keeps them alive in our fears and memories disproportionate to actual rates of crime.
The challenge for the coming years then seems to be how to set criminal justice policy that is responsive to actual issues on the ground, rather than just the perceptions of them.
Header Image: Ian Waldie / Staff (Getty Images)
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.