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States often follow trends when enacting sentencing policy. After a trend of get tough on crime policy which placed more and more offenders in prison, many states are turning to justice reinvestment policies, a reversal of these tougher policies. If a state passes a justice reinvestment policy, there is expected to be a decrease in the prison population for the state. Data was collected for every state’s sentencing policy between 1979 and 2011, prison population between 1979 and 2011, as well as the crime rate for these years. Using statistics, it can be concluded that the presence of a justice reinvestment policy may cause a decrease in prison population. Those who influence sentencing policy at the state level have to consider the precarious balance between community safety and the financial burden of prison terms. This research demonstrates the effectiveness of particular sentencing policies, which can help with this decision-making process.

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Project Designation

Honors Thesis

Primary Advisor

Grant Neeley

Primary Advisor's Department

Political Science


Stander Symposium poster


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