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Right on Crime | December 19, 2011
Two reports from the federal government highlight recent decreases in both crime rates and rates of correctional supervision across the United States.
In the first, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that the number of adults incarcerated or on probation or parole decreased by 1.3 percent in 2010. Of the 7.1 million people under correctional supervision, about three-tenths are incarcerated, and seven-tenths are under community supervision. Federal prison populations actually grew by 0.8 percent in 2010, so the decrease is largely attributed to shrinking state correctional populations. Even federal prison growth, however, is at its lowest rate since 1980.
The second major report, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, concludes that in the first half of 2011, violent crime has dropped by 6.4 percent, while property crime has fallen by 3.7 percent, continuing a recent downward trend.
The simultaneous drop in correctional supervision rates and crime rates undermines the common perception that more incarceration necessarily leads to less crime. The figures also belie the argument that a poor economy necessarily leads to more crime. Both the BJS report and the FBI report provide encouraging news for reform advocates.