The 3-Strikes website provides the most recent information and data on national and California crime rates and prison populations. Keep in mind reports are generally not released for 6 months to 1 year after the period of the study. We can be reached from this site to provide special data on a particular request for information not provided within these reports – if that information is available.
There are also links in this site’s footer area with links to the state and federal departments of justice, the FBI and the California state department of corrections.
Data unto itself has little meaning. It’s the interpretation of that data that counts. Mark Twain once said, “There are lies, damned lies and then there’s statistics.” You will often see 2 people of great authority and knowledge come up with totally different conclusions after looking at the same data.
Keeping in mind the previous qualifying statement, let me point out that some observations that seem rather apparent and provide what I feel may be the reason for certain historical changes we have seen in the last 5 years.
While reports from certain politicians would have you believe crime is down across the nation, you will see the FBI report showing a vast disparity in crime reductions that vary from state to state, with some actually reporting increases or only minor reductions.
What we seem to be seeing is when large, populous states experience great and significant reductions they pull down the national averages.
The 2 big states I’m referring to are New York and California.
These reductions occurred in a parallel period of time as both states instituted major “get tough” policies that began in 1994.
California implemented it’s 3-Strikes law and New York City, that reports a lion’s share of New York’s crime, increased it’s police force to 38 thousand police officers.
These 2 tactics provide a long time tried and true formula to reduce crime. More police increase the chance of being caught and greater penalties deter criminal conduct. Those who are not deterred are imprisoned. The result however is the same, less crime.
Now we are seeing a reduced prison population in states with lower crime rates. This reinforces the obvious, “Fewer crimes translates into fewer arrests, prosecutions, incarcerations and most important, fewer victims.”
Once again California and New York are leading the way with zero prison population growth and influencing the national average.
Cause and effect can be debated until hell freezes over with each side grasping at some bit of data to reinforce their position. Some speak of prevention or early intervention or we should be looking for the root causes of crime.
I would suggest that the root causes of crimes are criminals. The best prevention or intervention lies in them knowing that there is a high likelihood they will be caught and punished if the continue their criminal conduct.
This is a strategy, that some say is cruel and insensitive; nonetheless it works.
The one argument that has turned out to be wrong, and we now have the data to prove it, is that “tougher laws cost tax payers more money to lock up more criminals.” In fact, the states that have gotten the toughest with criminals are seeing not only the greatest reductions in crime but reductions in prison populations as well, consequently reducing the costs of incarceration overall.
Crime will continue to be problematic until we, as a society, are prepared to no longer tolerate criminal behavior.
It has now become obvious that California’s 3-Strikes sentencing law has become the most successful working model in the nation to reduce crime and its associated costs and has become an example for other states to emulate.