Chart Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 13 2014 @ 11:30am


Dara Lind shares an important one:

An analysis by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project found that the states that shrunk their incarceration rates the most over the last five years experienced a slightly bigger drop in crime as the states where incarceration rates grew: 12 percent versus 10 percent. What about all fifty states? We made a scatterplot based on Pew’s data, mapping how a state’s imprisonment rate changed from 2008-2013 on the horizontal x axis, and how its crime rate changed on the vertical y axis. The result is, well, a scatter – there’s no clear relationship at all between prison and crime. That makes it a lot harder to justify the US’ current level of incarceration.

Meanwhile, Stephen Lurie urges Obama to cut off the money for mass incarceration:

The most pressing task is to address the enabler of incarceration: money. Policy experts from leading liberal and conservative justice-reform think tanks told me that spending is the single most important avenue for reform. Money determines outcomes; change that and you can change the whole system. In fact, as Inimai Chettiar, director of Justice Program at NYU Law School’s Brennan Center, explained to me, the current system arose out of expanded federal spending. “The federal government enacted several laws that basically gave states more money if they would increase their prison population,” she said. Truth-in-sentencing guidelines, for example, disbursed billions of dollars to “ensure that people would spend 85 percent of their sentences in prison even though those sentences were already … overly harsh.” That flow of cash, a product of the War on Drugs, also came with a series of designated metrics – like arrests or drug seizures – that incentivized states to gear performance towards what they saw to be lucrative outcomes. If the Justice Department revised its interpretation of many of these laws, it could reshape the system.