Posted on June 2, 2024

New Study Challenges ‘Myth’ That US Has a Mass Incarceration Problem

Jason Hopkins, Daily Caller, May 28, 2024

Prison reform advocates have repeatedly pushed the notion that the U.S. has a mass incarceration problem, but a soon-to-be released Heritage Foundation study casts doubt on that claim.

Left-wing proponents of criminal justice reform claim that masses of individuals, including an unfair rate of minorities, are languishing in America’s country’s prisons, but they do not take into account the vast number of crimes that go unsolved or the number of criminals who avoid jail time, according to the report. The data show that any mass release of the U.S. prison population would result in a high number of individuals convicted of violent crimes being put back into American communities.


The study’s authors, however, argue that the proponents of the mass incarceration “myth” largely ignore the millions of crime victims across the U.S. and overcount individuals being “incarcerated.”

In 2015, there were 15,696 homicides in the U.S., the study noted. That number was more than all of the European Union, Canada, Australian, Japan, and New Zealand combined.


In addition to the higher crime rates taking place in the U.S., the authors noted how there is a “yawning gap” between the number of crimes known to victims and the number of perpetrators caught, tried, convicted and sent to prison.

There were 16,425 instances of murder known to police in 2019, according to crime data from that year cited by Heritage. However, only 8,033 people were admitted to prison for the crime.

In a more dramatic example of the inequity of the crime-to-prison pipeline, there were 1,019,490 claims of aggravated assault by victims in 2019, but only 55,268 people were admitted to prison for those crimes.

While almost half of murderers were caught and imprisoned, fewer than 6% of those who committed rape, robbery, or aggravated assault met a similar fate, according to the interview of victims in crime surveys and other data reviewed by Heritage.


Many critics of the justice system overcount those in incarceration by including all criminal defendants, even those out in the community on probation or parole, according to Heritage. Only about one-third of criminal defendants in the U.S. are incarcerated in prison or jail, while two-thirds are free on probation or parole, according to Department of Justice statistics.