The U.S. is at a 13-Year Low in Imprisonment

Earlier this week, I gave an optimistic read on the state of criminal justice reform in response to Max Ehrenfreud’s more pessimistic take (Ed Kilgore summarizes the exchange nicely and adds his own thoughts here)

The news today from the Department of Justice belongs to the optimists: The U.S. imprisonment rate has fallen for the sixth straight year. In 2014, the rate fell to a level not seen since 2001

Last year, Nancy LaTourneau wrote a thoughtful piece on cynicism versus hope in politics. In it, she contrasted my optimistic take on de-incarceration for Washington Post in 2014 with a gloomy bit of doom-saying at Think Progress. Remarkably, both pieces were based on the same 2013 incarceration data.

Nancy wrote at the time that she was choosing hope over cynicism. Today’s imprisonment numbers affirm that stance. Without faith in our ability to change our country we will surrender to despair and never build the kind of criminal justice system we need.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.