Is the "WAR ON DRUGS" really a failure?
The effect of legalized abortion on crime (sometimes referred to as the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis) is the theory that legal abortion reduces crime. Several sociologists and economists have suggested that the drop-off in violent crime in the early 90's was due to the liberalization of abortion laws 20 years earlier, largely due to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade. It’s a controversial theory. The theory is that many of the people whose demographic properties put them at high likelihood of committing those crimes were killed before they were even born. They therefore did not enter the demographic pool 20 years later, when they were at the "peak" of their would-be crime career. Opponents generally reject these statistics, and argue that abortion has negative effects on society and a decrease in crime is brought about in other ways. I believe there is some validity to the Donohue-Levitt theory; however, it is my contention there are additional and more direct explanations for the dramatic drop in US crime rates, which are rarely heard in academic circles or the main stream media. The most significant being the simple analysis of the below US violent crime rate charts in comparison to prison incarceration rates. It is noted that the number of US homicides reached over 24,000 per annum in 1991 when US prison construction programs were just beginning to dramatically increase available prison space, and many believe this was a significant factor in dropping the number of US homicides to less than 15,000 by 2011. Expanded prison space essentially prevented the early release of many violent criminals onto the streets to resolve prison overcrowding. The US homicide rate decreased continuously between 1991 and 2000 from 9.8 homicides per 100,000 to 5.5 homicides per 100,000 US population, and the rates decreased in almost exact correlation to increased prison space (see below chart). The year 2010 was overall the safest year in almost forty years. I would acknowledge that better medical technology and ambulance services also contributed to the reduction in murders, but the overall decrease in recent years has reflected upon all significant types of crime, not just homicide, with all violent and property crimes having decreased. The homicide rate in particular has decreased 51% between its record high point in 1991 and 2010. Another factor the Donohue-Levitt theory does not take into account is the role of drug abuse on crime rates. Was there something else going on in the late 1980’s that might be causing young black males to be killing each other at alarming rates? The obvious culprit is crack cocaine which was hitting the inner cities at exactly the same time as the violent crime rose.
INVERSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PRISON INCARCERATION AND VIOLENT/PROPERTY CRIMES IN THE UNITED STATES
It is my contention that these statistics appear to show aggressive law enforcement, the U.S. “War on Drugs”, combined with increased prison space, may have saved as many as 10,000 American homicide victims lives every year since 1991. To put this into perspective, these law enforcement efforts and expenditures for increased prison space probably saved twice as many lives, every single year since 1991, than the total number of Americans killed in the entire Iraq & Afghanistan Wars combined. The FBI national crime report for 2012 disclosed the nation's violent crime rate is now the lowest it has been since 1970. Compared to 1991, when it hit an all-time high, the overall violent crime is down by 49 percent. The nation's murder rate is still lower than any time since 1963 and at nearly an all-time low. Over 10,000 fewer Americans are murdered every year now, compared to the homicide statistics of 1991. Some U.S. civil rights leaders contend the U.S. Justice system is racist in view of the fact there is a disproportionate percentage of black people in the prison system, but rarely mention the fact the vast majority of violent crimes committed by black men also have black victims. Statistics show more than 90 percent of black males currently incarcerated for homicide killed black victims. Is it “racist” to be more concerned about the welfare of black victims than black criminals?
WHAT WAS THE U.S. CRIME SITUATION BEFORE THE 1991 PRISON EXPANSIONS?
The social revolution of the 1960’s positive image of drugs appear to be a significant factor to the problems of crime, drugs, and violence which initiated in this decade in our society. The nation’s struggle with crimes of violence escalated from the early 1960’s until 1992 when the intense effects of the crack epidemic were met with a vigorous response from law enforcement around the nation. When the violent crime rate of 1960 is compared on a decade-by-decade basis to the present time, it is clearly apparent that violent criminal activity increased dramatically during that time frame until 1992. This increase was fueled in large part by the increasing levels of drug use during those same years. Between 1960 and 1992, the violent crime rate grew nine times faster than America’s population.