Are We "Just as Safe" with Criminal Justice Reform?
Criminal justice reformers’ principal argument is that we can incarcerate fewer criminals, be more humane, and more closely resemble other Western countries while remaining “just as safe” as we were under the get-tough policies that incubated in the Reagan-Bush years and were carried forward through Clinton, Bush43, and part of Obama’s term (or roughly through 2014, which was the low point for murder and other violent crimes, see this table).
Is that true? Are we just as safe now as we were before “criminal justice reform” started to win major victories six or seven years ago with, prominently but not solely, the election of “progressive prosecutors” in major cities like New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Seattle, Baltimore, and San Francisco?
See for yourself:
The chart shows us that the murder rate was 4.4 victims per 100,000 population as we entered 2015. Seven years later, as 2021 came to an end, it was at 6.9 — an increase in the murder rate of slightly over fifty percent. Note also that the increase in the murder rate started well before anyone ever heard of COVID, before the January 6 riot, and before “Putin” was a household dirty word.
Or, not to put too fine a point on it, criminal justice reformers’ claim that we are “just as safe” as we were before the ascendency of their policies is true only if you believe that a 50% increase in the murder rate is keeping us “just as safe.”