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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Time to Rethink Increased Incarceration?

No Support For "More Prisoners, Less Crime"

In FL Study increasing incarceration in Florida had no effect on the crime rate in 58 counties, says a study in the summer issue of the journal Criminology & Public Policy.

In "The Effect of County-Level Prison Population Growth on Crime Rates," Professors Tomislav V. Kovandzic and Lynne M. Vieraitis, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found "no support for the more prisoners, less crime thesis."

From 1980 to 2000, the incarceration rate more than doubled in Florida, from just over 200 to over 450 inmates per 100,000 population.

The study found no statistically significant differences in the crime rates for homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft. The support for the "incarceration reduces crime thesis" is based on the belief that if criminals are locked up in jail, they cannot commit another crime and on the deterrent effect of spending a long time in jail may have on potential offenders.

The authors contend their findings suggest that Florida policy makers should explore alternative crime-control strategies "in light of the tremendous financial and social costs of imprisonment as compared with its benefits."

Criminologist Todd Clear of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, editor of the journal, said that approaches that need to be emphasized are community-based crime prevention, reduction of teen-age pregnancy, reducing school drop-out and truancy, and improved economic prospects in the poorest neighborhoods.