Research continues to show that many people in prison do not pose a threat to society.
A study in the US found that a quarter of prisoners (364,000 people) could have been more effectively sentenced to non-custodial alternatives without “meaningfully threatening public safety or increasing crime,” while a further 14 percent could be released within a year and pose “little risk to public safety.”
Overall, prisons are an outmoded, anti-innovative method of increasing public safety and reducing crime. Between 2008 and 2013 most US states reduced their imprisonment rates while experiencing less crime. A 2017 Pew Charitable Trust analysis of US prisons and drug-related crime found no statistically significant relationship between states’ drug offender imprisonment rates and three measures of drug problems: rates of illicit use, overdose deaths, and arrests. A 2017 Open Philanthropy Project report reviewed 35 international studies and concluded that tougher sentences “hardly deter crime” and prison time “tends to increase [a person’s] criminality after release”—in other words, prisons produce crime instead of stop it.
Crime rates around the world have declined, but the number of people in prison globally is rising. Between 2000 and 2015, the total prison population in Oceania increased by almost 60 percent; in the Americas it increased by over 40 percent overall: 14 percent in the US, over 80 percent in Central American countries, and 145 percent in South American countries. The number of life‐sentenced prisoners around the world has nearly doubled since 2000.
In sum, If any industry operated on the sort of success rate exhibited by US prisons—the recidivism rate hovers at 70 percent; in much of the world, rates do not look much better—it would be shut down immediately.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015 stress that we shall “leave no one behind.” The incarcerated are globally being left behind; they are among the most disadvantaged people on the planet, both when they enter prison—on average an incarcerated person, prior to confinement, earns 41 percent less than a non-imprisoned person—and then again when they are cycled out of it, to face unemployment, trauma, homelessness and limited civil rights. This fact alone suggest why INN looks to support and reduce a population routinely denied basic rights to education, health and fair treatment—then further forced to live as subclass citizens even after having served their time.