Advocates for criminal justice reform are right to believe that shorter prison sentences deter recidivism. This has been proven by a series of researches. There are however certain caveats that need to be looked into to arrive at the correct conclusion.
One of such studies was carried out by David Roodman and sponsored by Open Philanthropy Project. Roodman analyzed several critical evidences to come up with his own findings.
The main objective of the study was to determine how shorter prison sentences affect crime rates. The study also sought to know if having fewer offenders in jails impacts crime in any way. The researcher concluded his critical evidence reviews and submitted his findings in a blog post.
Roodman: “Decarceration Has Zero Net Impact on Crime”
According to Roodman, “decarceration has zero net impact on crime” in the US. But that conclusion is not final, because evidences suggest decarceration deters crimes in certain respects and also increases it in other respects.
The researchers stated that imprisonment makes it impossible for inmates to commit crimes. But it increases their criminality and recidivism after release from prison. This goes to show that tougher prison sentences are harmful in the long run.
In over 140 pages of published report, Roodman states that existing studies on the subject are flawed. The researcher’s studies examined the before, during and after effects of incarceration.
He analyzed 35 existing studies that focused on experimental and quasi-experimental researches to arrive at conclusions. The bottom line however is that before-effects of incarceration on crime is nearly non-existent, while its after-effect cancels out its benefits.
Conclusions on Recidivism & Shorter Prison Sentences
“This is very good news for supporters of criminal justice reform, but it comes with some caveats.”
“Building and filling prisons is not making people safer. It may even be endangering the public. In that case, the cost-benefit case for decarceration is a no-brainer: all benefit and no cost.”
Roodman arrived at a number of conclusions for his research. One, he finds that incarceration has a mild or zero effect on recidivism. Two, the idea that emptying jails to avoid overcrowding impacts on crime to a “more right” than “wrong” degree.
Three, imprisonment rehabilitates some people and makes them less unlikely to return to crime, while it hardens some others by connecting them with notorious gangsters. Four, freeing people from prisons does not have much effect on increasing crime rates.
So, what do you think?
Do you believe shorter prison sentences could be one of the keys to ending recidivism in the US?
Tell us what you think in the comments below.