Is America’s Falling Crime Rate a Myth?

Writing for N+1 magazine, Christopher Glazek argues that America’s crime rate, which has defied expectations and continued to fall through the recession, is a myth because a large proportion of crime has been displaced and isn’t counted.

“Crime and unemployment were supposed to rise in tandem — progressives have been harping on this point for centuries. Where had all the criminals gone?” he asks.

In his lengthy essay, Glazek says that there is one glaring omission with crime rates — crimes in prisons.

In particular, he cites the 85% reported drop in rape statistics between 1980 and 2005 and how rapes in prisons just aren’t counted in those numbers.

We’re used to hearing about the widening chasm between the haves and have-nots; we’re less accustomed to contemplating a more fundamental gap: the abyss that separates the fortunate majority, who control their own bodies, from the luckless minority, whose bodies are controlled, and defiled, by the state.

Crime has not fallen in the United States — it’s been shifted.

Jill Filipovic, writing for Feministe, picks up Glazek’s argument and suggests that the United States may be the only country where most rape is actually of men.

Looking at studies and using numbers which have only recently started to be reported by the Justice Department, she suggests that rapes on men in prisons may well outnumber the roughly 190,000 estimated sexual assaults of women outside prisons.

“However you cut the statistics, it is clear that men in the United States are sexually assaulted in enormous numbers – they’re just men we don’t care so much about, or that society has decided deserves it,” she writes.

Or as Glazek puts it:

[Prisoners] are the victims of an ideological system that dehumanizes an entire class of human being and permits nearly infinite violence against it. As much as a physical space, prisons denote an ethical space, or, more precisely, a space where ordinary ethics are suspended.

One of the reasons why the Justice Department has released any figures on prison rape at all was because of a 2011 feature article in the New York Review of Books.

“Corrections officials, with some brave exceptions, have historically taken advantage of a reluctance to [report sexual assault to] downplay or even deny the problem,” write David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow.

Even when sexual assault by prison staff is confirmed, they report, very few officers are even charged, let alone convicted or fired.

The Justice Department has failed to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), unanimously passed by Congress in 2003.

The Economist magazine sides with Glazek on America’s real crime rate.

“America’s prison system is a moral catastrophe. The eerie sense of security that prevails on the streets of lower Manhattan obscures, and depends upon, a system of state-sponsored suffering as vicious and widespread as any in human history,” says Glazek.

“America’s prisons are its blind spots, places where complaints cannot be heard and abuses cannot be seen. Though important symbols of bureaucratic authority, they are spaces that lie beyond our system of bureaucratic oversight. As far as the outside world is concerned, every American prison functions as a black site.”

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Image: Wikipedia


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson6 years ago

it is a scary world.. everywhere

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

General crime rates have been falling for several years now.

That information is kept back. Us has more people in jail then any other country. Most of them are small drug users and are people that do felony's, which is about any thing you do 'wrong'..

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

Very unfortunate. Our justice system does not even attempt to differentiate between those that only harm themselves (e.g., drug users) and those that harm others (e.g., murderers and rapists). There should be a very big difference in the punishment between these groups. From my examples, drug abusers should be rehabilitated and murderers should go to jail.

Jason S.
Jason S6 years ago

Thanks for for sharing

Cheri L.
Cheri L6 years ago

As a victim of rape I understand its violence but I am perplexed that rape is the only crime they are looking at here. I would never trivialize rape of anyone, male or female, however to insist that crime is not going up because male rape is up is ludicrous. Crime in general is still going down with the exception of white collar crime by the ilks of Wall Street and such.

Diana E F.
Diana E F6 years ago

A prisoner once wrote to me, "Every rapist that leaves your environment enters our environment."

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W6 years ago

WE have to stop out-sourcing our prisons to private hands. They do NOTHING but take in more and more convicted people, many of whom, these days, may have done NOTHING!

We have blood-thirsty, mega-ambitious, unethical prosecutors throwing many in prison that should NOT BE THERE! And the ones that should be in prison? Those platinum-collared Banksters who robbed the world's economy? They in jail? NO - - WE REWARDED THEM!

Prisons and law enforcement need to be the public's domain again. WE NEED to take a stand for US having control. Is this not a government OF the people? Then we need to start taking it BACK!!!!

Janice M.
Janice Ma6 years ago

They don't count crimes by cops either, do they?

Cathryn C.
Cathryn C6 years ago

@Donna H..they are very much manipulated, You only have to look at any newspaper or site that enumerates the arrests made in any week to know the truth.

John Mansky
John Mansky6 years ago

Lest the truth,be known. It is easier just to shift numbers,in columns. Also makes for easier reading...