New Justice Department Report: Prison Rates Plummeting, Lowest Level Since 1992

Written by Daniel Horowitz

Why is there a record number of criminals on the streets? Well, if they are being removed from the prisons, where else do you think they will land?

It’s not enough for Republicans to only focus on funding the police. What point is there in funding the police if prosecutors, judges, and new laws from the legislature will just let out all the repeat violent offenders? A new Bureau of Justice Statistics report easily sheds light on why there is so much rampant crime in the streets. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • The combined state and federal imprisonment rate has declined a whopping 28% since 2010, and the incarceration rate is now the lowest since 1992. Contrary to those who believe there is an over-incarceration rate among black people, the rate of decline was even sharper – 37%.
  • Although the culture of leniency has been going on for a decade, it was massively accelerated by COVID jailbreak. The population went down 15% just in one year from 2019 to 2020. That is the single largest decline since records began to be kept in 1926. Nine states showed decreases of greater than 20% (New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, North Dakota, Maine, New York, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). New Jersey claimed the No. 1 spot, with nearly a one-third reduction in its entire prison population in one year, following a decade of slower declines.
  • On the state level, some incarceration rates are even lower than the national aggregate. For example, the incarceration rate in New York is the lowest since 1984, and in California it’s the lowest since 1990.
  • Not only were so many people released, but so many others were not sentenced and incarcerated last year. There was a 40% decrease in those initially sent to prison since 2019. That number was 66% for California and 60% for New York.
  • The drop was particularly steep among those sentenced for serious crimes. The number of persons sentenced to more than one year in state or federal prison decreased from 1,379,800 in 2019 to 1,182,200 in 2020.
  • State and federal correctional authorities held 352 persons age 17 or younger at year end in 2020, a 46% decline from 2019. There is your juvenile crime wave right there.

Is there any wonder why every major city is plagued by carjackings and shootings? Prison ain’t pretty, but making our streets look like the prisons is much worse. Yes, it’s time to “lock them up” and build more prisons. The notion that it’s low-level crimes and drug crimes that are fueling the prison population, especially among black people, is nonsense. The fact of the matter is that a higher percentage of black prisoners are incarcerated for violent crimes than white prisoners. Only 49.8% of white prisoners are incarcerated for one of the violent crime categories, while 64% of black prisoners and 66% of Hispanic prisoners are in prison for one of those offenses. White prisoners are actually more likely to be incarcerated for drugs or property crimes, while black prisoners are more likely to be incarcerated for weapons charges.

In fact, just 12% of incarcerated black criminals were in prison by year’s end in 2019 for drug charges, and only one-fourth of those people were in for possession. It’s also extremely likely that even those few people were only there for a short time because they pleaded down from more serious charges or they were repeat offenders with a more serious criminal history, parole violation, or broke the terms of probation. Roughly 80% of black prisoners were in prison for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, car theft, or weapons charges. So, the notion that we have an over-incarceration problem among black criminals is a complete hoax – and in fact, we have an under-incarceration crisis among all demographics, especially for violent crimes and car thefts.

Republicans have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to right the ship when the legislative sessions commence. They have political winds at their backs, with 61% in an ABC News/Ipsos poll disapproving of President Biden’s handling of crime. A new Pew Research poll shows just 28% of Americans, including 40% of black people, believe that criminals are sentenced for too long. And those numbers would likely drop if people would know how little time people serve for serious, repeat offenses.

From longer prison sentences to more funding for courts, prosecutors, and prisons, Republicans need to embrace law and order once again. With so many cities setting homicide records this year, there is simply no constituency for the Koch-Soros jailbreak agenda.

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of TheBlaze and host of the Conservative Review podcast. He writes on the most decisive battleground issues of our times, including the theft of American sovereignty through illegal immigration, the theft of American liberty through tyranny, and the theft of American law and order through criminal justice “reform.”