A declining number of U.S. adults in prison or on probation
January 4, 2013 2:05 PM   Subscribe

After decades of increases, the number of adults in the U.S. who are in prison, jail, on parole, or on probation has declined over the last few years. The pdf of the report from the U.S. Department of Justice is here. Comments from Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog, and Keith Humphreys.
posted by Area Man (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Kevin Drum credits lead eradication.

posted by notyou at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

It seems like a good thing, but they really have a ways to go before we hit a non-insane level. Here's to a decade more!
posted by selfnoise at 2:12 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Peak Jail has been reached?
posted by Mad_Carew at 2:32 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

One can only hope. But a small decrease is worth celebrating accordingly.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:54 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is good news indeed, but let's not go overboard patting ourselves on the back here:
1 United States of America 730
2 St. Kitts and Nevis 649
3 Seychelles 641
4 Virgin Islands (U.S.A.) 539
5 Rwanda 527
6 Cuba 510
7 Russian Federation 495
8 Georgia 492
9 Anguilla (United Kingdom) 480
10 Virgin Islands (United Kingdom) c.460
I think Humphreys has a good point that this is underreported in part because "imprisonment decreases" is never going to get as many eyeballs to media as "oh no, crime! And things on fire!"
posted by ibmcginty at 2:56 PM on January 4, 2013

ruh roh, Wackenhut's gonna need a bailout
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:59 PM on January 4, 2013

Won't someone think of the prison guards' unions?
posted by spacewrench at 3:09 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

From poking around some commenters seem to have reservations about any broad conclusions from this data, much of which is actually a decrease in probation headcounts, and a huge slice of which comes from California alone due to its own largely budget-driven prison reductions.

I do feel intrigued by the lead hypothesis, but I feel we've got a few years go to before we can have more confidence in it. I'd also like to see some of the more granular data, e.g. people who grew up near expressways, or children of historic preservationists (like myself) -- I've often wondered whether my own depression, or my brother's learning disabilities, might have any relationship to all the lead paint dust we may have inhaled during our 1970s renovation.
posted by dhartung at 3:31 PM on January 4, 2013

This is great news. I only wish we could make further progress in getting rid of the private prison industry, because it has proven to be a breeding ground for corruption.
posted by spiderskull at 4:49 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Progress is hard when opposed by "But they were convicted." It's incredibly frustrating.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:16 PM on January 4, 2013

Comment #1 on Marginal Revolution is right:
"This is almost entirely because of budget problems at the state level."

Prison business suffers when public fund availability tightens. Less funding means less product comfortably and profitably incarcerated.

In pictures.
posted by meehawl at 7:58 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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