As the prison population has grown in New Zealand, the recorded crime rate has declined. If we reduce the prison population, how do we know that crime won’t go up?

As the prison population has grown in New Zealand, the recorded crime rate has declined. If we reduce the prison population, how do we know that crime won’t go up?

Answer

Like most western-style democracies, recorded crime rates in New Zealand started declining in the early 1990s. Before that, rising crime rates had been normal, along with a growing prison population. Why crime rates rise or fall is poorly understood. What we do know is that there is no relationship between rates of crime and imprisonment. The international evidence suggests that it is possible to lower prison populations and the crime rate at the same time. It has been done, for example, in the United States[1] and in the Netherlands.[2] The Opportunities Party knows of no reason why it can’t be done in New Zealand.   



[1] The PEW Charitable Trusts. (December 2016) National Imprisonment and Crime

Rates Continue to Fall: Crime dropped faster in 2015 in states with larger prison declines.

[2] Statistics Netherlands (CBS) Fewer and fewer Dutch affected by crime, unsafety feelings and neighbourhood nuisance.