U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

New Approach to Reducing Incarceration While Maintaining Low Rates of Crime

NCJ Number
Steven Raphael; Michael A. Stoll
Date Published
May 2014
36 pages

This discussion paper presents a new approach for reducing incarceration rates while maintaining low rates of crime.


This discussion paper, proposed by The Hamilton Project, presents a new approach for reducing incarceration rates while maintaining low crime rates. The paper begins with an overview of the current problem of incarceration in this country, describing the negative consequences resulting from large incarceration rates and the impact on communities and certain segments of the population resulting from mass incarceration. In order to reduce incarceration levels in this country, this paper presents a proposal aimed at reducing incarceration rates through the smarter use of prisons. This proposal consists of two broad policy strategies: the introduction of greater discretion into U.S. sentencing and parole practices, and the need to create incentives for local governments to reserve the use of prison for those offenders who pose the greatest risk to public safety. Changing how sentencing and parole practices are handled includes revising the scope and severity of truth-in-sentencing laws and taking inventory of and reevaluating legislatively mandated minimum sentences. Recent reforms implemented in California are highlighted as a means of showing decreases in prison populations can be successfully implemented without generating a marked increase in crime. The final section of the paper addresses some of the concerns that proponents of this reform may encounter. Table, figures, endnotes, and references