Punishment does not amount to crime in the American society. Crime is increasing and there is more and more people getting thrown into prison for the wrong things. Punishment now leads to earlier release dates and shorter sentences.
Serious crime rates declined significantly in American society from 1995 to 1999 and have since leveled off at that lower level. Prison populations in the U.S. steadily grew from 1980 to the present, covering periods such as the early 1980s, when crime rates were dropping, and the early 1990s, when they were rapidly increasing. While it might seem obvious that putting more bad people in prison will reduce crime, the evidence for this is much more ambiguous. Many factors influence crime rates, such as demographics, immigration patterns, unemployment rates, epidemics of illegal drugs and guns, housing density and policing strategies, among other variables.
During the period when crime rate was going down, there was a general national trend toward lower crime rates in almost every state. Canada experienced a decline in crime similar to the one in the U.S., but actually reduced its prison population. Many jurisdictions in the United States did not grow their prison populations as fast as the Golden State. New York City led the nation in its crime drop in the 1990s, but during this period there were fewer people from the Big Apple sent to city or state prisons.
Juvenile crime rates have also trended much lower since 1995, but the state youth prison population is less than one-quarter of what it was 10 years ago. By contrast, the state of Texas doubled its number of incarcerated juveniles during the 1990s and has a lock-up rate much higher than California's, but its youth crime rate was about the same.
We all want dangerous offenders off the street, and for as long as we can keep them there. But American society fills its prisons with property offenders, addicts and people who don't commit new...