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Crime spike not due to prison reforms

Suggestions that the recent spike in homicides is due to recent statewide criminal justice reforms are not supported by evidence. The same is true for violent crimes overall.

Reductions in incarceration were spurred by legislative reforms in 2014 and 2021, neither of which align with the spike in homicides that started in 2020. The two southeastern states with the highest increase in homicide over the past decade did not pass reforms similar to Mississippi’s. All states experienced homicide spikes in 2020, including those that implemented justice reforms and those that did not. While these reforms were statewide, increases in homicides have been heavily concentrated in the City of Jackson, which has 6 percent of the state’s population but at least 25 percent – and possibly as high as 52 percent, according to FBI estimates – of the state’s homicides. If criminal justice reforms were a driver of violent crime rates, the impact would be more widespread. The academic literature supports the idea that evidence-based policies which decrease incarceration like those implemented in Mississippi do not lead to higher crime rates. In fact – counterintuitively – they almost always lead to lower crime rates.

There are several elements that are necessary to safely and responsibly reduce Mississippi’s incarceration rate – and the cost to taxpayers that accompanies unnecessary incarceration.

First is to prevent crime before it occurs. Ideally, this would start with a spiritual foundation that distinguishes right from wrong and serves to help people, not harm them. But from a public policy standpoint, here are ways to prevent crime:

Enable a strong economy with adequate job or entrepreneurial opportunities to provide sufficient income for families. This includes, among other things, removing the many regulatory barriers to obtaining occupational licenses, especially where a criminal record – no matter how long ago the crime occurred or what the crime was – can automatically preclude a person’s pursuit of a trade or profession. Properly fund law enforcement and ensure that the money is used to attract, pay well, and properly train officers, so that there will be a sufficient number

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