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Prison Time vs. Crime Rate Study

According to a study in August 1995, by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, putting more people in state prisons has had little effect on California's crime rate. In only two categories of criminal activity analyzed in the study -- robbery and larceny -- did the crime rate appear to have dropped due to more people being incarcerated. However, it wasn't clear that aggressive imprisonment efforts were responsible for the drop, the report said.

To study the effect of expanded imprisonment as a crime control tactic, the researchers used mathematical techniques to estimate how California's crime rates in selected categories would have behaved had the prison population remained constant. They compared the projected rates to the rates actually reported. The study apparently contradicts supporters of the state's "Three Strikes" law, which requires life sentences for criminals with three felony convictions.

Mike Reynolds, a Fresno businessman who helped pass the "Three Strikes" initiative, said serious crime in California had dropped nearly 8 percent in the first six months of 1994, in part because of the new, tough sentencing law. The study indicated that increasing the state's prison population didn't decrease the rate of crime in car theft, and that imprisoning more people may actually have driven the crime rate up in that category.

Vincent Schiraldi, the executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, said, "North and South Dakota have almost identical populations and demographics, yet South Dakota sends nearly three times as many people to prison". Schiraldi went on to say that, "Never has there been a better experimental demonstration that there is no real relationship between increasing the prison population and decreasing the crime rate."

Prison Activist Res. Ctr. (PARC)

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