Incarceration rates fell along with the rate of violent and property crime in the U.S. in 2009, according to a Washington, D.C., think tank.
Reported violent crime fell 5.5 percent and property crime fell 4.9 percent in 2009, according to an analysis released by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a group whose mission is to reduce incarceration.
The analysis is based on the FBI's Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report that was released today. It found that this drop in crime coincided with decreasing use of prisons from previous years. This corresponds with a national trend of states seeking ways to curtail corrections spending in light of the economic downturn, according to the group.
The institute applauded the news, releasing a statement that it highlights that states can save money, promote alternatives to incarceration and still maintain public safety.
"Increased incarceration does not increase public safety," said Tracy Velázquez, the institute's executive director. "The FBI's report shows that we can improve public safety and put fewer people in prisons, which means savings for taxpayers in addition to stronger communities. Investments in jobs, education and treatment are areas where states should focus their dollars, as all of these will help reduce crime more effectively and fairly than building more prisons."
The 2009 drop in crime came at a time when the prison growth rates fell from previous years. While the number of people in prison is still growing, it is at a slower rate than the last few decades, according to the group.
"Contrary to the conventional wisdom that locking people up makes communities safer, the data is clearly showing that crime is going down as fewer people are being put in prison," Velázquez added. "Rather than spending more money unnecessarily on policing and incarceration, we recommend that states increase their investments in people and communities, rather than prisons, as a better way of ensuring that public safety continues to improve."
The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) bills itself as an organization dedicated to reducing society's use of incarceration and "promoting just and effective social policies."