The graph above charts the percent change in imprisonment rate against the percent change in violent crime rate for states between 2000 and 2013, with the size of the circle showing the state’s population. It shows that there hasn’t been a consistent negative correlation between imprisonment and violent crime – in other words, imprisoning more people doesn’t seem to reduce crime. If that were true, the dots would be clustered in the lower-right hand side of the image. Instead, they are all over the chart.
Florida is arguably the best case study for those who favor imprisonment; a nearly 20 percent increase in the imprisonment rate has been accompanied by a more than 40 percent drop in violent crime in the state. But California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, and other states are clustered in the lower-left hand side of the graph, indicating that in these states a reduction in the imprisonment rate has been accompanied by less violent crime.