Maybe, just maybe, there’s a connection…

Government report says 2.1 million behind bars in U.S.

Once again, a bizarre coincidence has been noted:

By last June 30, there were 48,000 more inmates, or 2.3 percent, more than the year before, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The total inmate population has hovered around 2 million for the past few years, reaching 2.1 million on June 30, 2002, and just below that mark a year later.

And these reports always have something along these lines:

In 2004, one in every 138 U.S. residents was in prison or jail; the previous year it was one in every 140.

However, these reports almost always also mention something along these lines:

While the crime rate has fallen over the past decade, the number of people in prison and jail is outpacing the number of inmates released, said the report’s co-author, Paige Harrison. [emphasis mine]

I think every report on this I’ve ever seen has a “crime rate is down BUT prison populations are up” and then they go on to detail how much the prison population has increased.

And they never seem to make any connection between the fact that crime rates are down and the fact that more criminals are behind bars.

I noted this previously. And the year before that, I think I did, too. Except that, if I did, the post was lost due to technical difficulties. Don’t worry, though. I’m sure I’ll mention it again next year.

Also, this unexplained phenomena has apparently surfaced in Iraq recently, as well.


  1. It’s not even that simple. The change in crime levels may (unlikely as it may seem) have nothing to do with more people behind bars. Have there been any changes in the number of prisonable offenses? (more or less laws or changes) Are those prisonable offenses actually useful in fighting ‘crime’. (such as: are white-collar crimes getting a pass while the guys with teeny amount of dope being imprisoned for years.) Is it easier or harder for trials to result in prison convictions? How is recidivism? In other words people who get sent to prison may not be serious criminals (or actual [e.g. political prisoners {unlikely in the U.S., but possible}) …and the people who deserve to go to prison may have just gone straight, got a job, scared off by improved enforcement levels, etc. find us the whole picture…not just a loose suggestion that increased imprisonment results in reduced crime.

  2. Sam: Absolutely it’s ‘not even that simple’. No in-depth analysis is intended or inferred. My post title is: ‘Maybe, just maybe, there’s a connection…’ I’m simply pointing out that every story about increased prison populations mentions that crime rates are down and doesn’t suggest that there may be a link. Now, for the sake of argument, let’s figure that at least *some* of the people added to (or not subtracted from via early release or shorter sentences) the prison population are actually criminals who would commit crimes given the opportunity. Taking that into consideration, are they more likely to commit crimes in prison or in public? My off-hand theory is that there’s probably a connection between criminals being behind bars instead of out on the street. That doesn’t mean that throwing even more people into jail will reduce the crime rate even more. + Fact: Prison populations are up (per this story). + Fact: Crime rate is down (per this story). + My theory: The two might be related but the stories about prison populations never suggest it.

  3. I agree, the newsies are (usually) stoopad in this regard…much like me after only two hours of sleep for the day (like today). Sorry again for being contentious. (go sleepy now)

  4. The fact the statistical diversion exists between criminal commitments being up, and crime being down for SEVERAL YEARS in a row; is more than coincidental. True, there are MANY factors that need to be examined to fully explain this situation; there’s no questioning the multi year trend Murdoc has noted at least partially explains the drop in crime. In Michigan at least……the trend for several years has been to keep the more violent criminals locked up for longer periods, and to to make increased use of alternative sentencing for less violent criminals. That is completely in line with Murdoc’s theory. They’re not committing crimes because they’re locked up. God bless ’em! (The prisons, I mean! LOL!).

  5. They’re not committing crimes because they’re locked up.’ Hey Flanker, You mean sodomy ain’t a crime anymore? I guess consenting adults can do it legally even if they’re behind bars!

  6. I don’t know what you guys are talking about. I am going to wait for the mainstream media to get to bottom of this mysterious trend and inform me of how I should view it. Man! You guys are really jumping to conclusions without proper supervision!

  7. Sam: Well, I wasn’t trying to slap you down. And you’re totally right that there are many more factors. So don’t stop questioning me. Murdoc has been known to make a mistake from time to time. LOL. Now get some sleep. Flanker: Thanks for the support. Sam’s been ALL OVER me lately. Toejam: You are absolutely right. And disgusting. Bram: Walkin’ on the wild side, here. The fun never stops on Murdoc Online.