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Ranking the Nation's Most Punitive States

NCJ Number
J Austin; R Tillman
Date Published
8 pages
A state-by-state analysis using alternative measures of punishment and control showed great variations among states and that in some states between 2 and 3 percent of the population is under some form of criminal justice control.
Measures included the total incarceration rate of both adults and juvenile and the total rate of incarceration plus probation and parole. These data were compared with reported crime statistics to determine the incarceration rate in relation to the imprisonment rate, but states with the highest imprisonment rates did not necessarily have the highest rates of total control. Differences among states in total control were only partly related to the differences in their crime rates. The differences among states in the use of different forms of control reflect variations in how State officials allocate public resources and adopt unique sentencing strategies. The south is the most punitive region, followed by the midwest, while the western states are the least punitive even when controlling for crime and arrest rates. Thus, jurisdictions traditionally ranked as conservative or liberal in their use of imprisonment may be misclassified. Tables, footnotes, and appended information on methodology.