America’s criminal justice establishment – comprised of major foundations, interest groups, and academics – has missed a number of mammoth trends crucial to designing modern reform policies.
One trend that escaped official notice was revealed in a recent Wonkblog post by Stanford University professor Keith Humphreys: over the past 15 years, imprisonments have plummeted among African Americans while rising among non-Hispanic whites. That dramatic, undiscussed trend is part of the revolution in crime and violence sweeping the country.
The racial pattern includes an equally surprising generational pattern in imprisonments, as well as in criminal arrests, gun violence, and other risks. Just 15 years ago, young adults ages 18-24 were nearly twice as likely to be imprisoned as their middle-aged parents (age 45-54). Today, after tremendous shifts both in numbers and per-capita imprisonment rates shown in the charts, young adults are less likely to be locked up than the middle aged.