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Crime and punishment

Criminal justice majors are proposing to put themselves in the center of one of the most contentious and controversial parts of our political process. What makes it so contentious? Let’s look at some data.

Crime data resources

U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)

Violent Victimization Committed by Strangers, 1993-2010 (Violent crimes committed by strangers has decreased far more rapidly than violent crime committed by relatives and friends of the victim. If you want to be safe, don’t go home.)

FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports

Crime in the U.S. (CIUS) year by year 1995 – 2015

Crime Reports’ map of crimes

United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime’s Data and Indicators

University of Michigan’s National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

Nationmaster’s Crime Statistics

Pew Research Center’s Crime and Criminal Justice’s Crime

Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Regime for Transnational Crime

National Institute of Justice’s Community Crime Prevention Strategies

Research History’s Hard Times, Fewer Crimes

Wikipedia’s Statistical correlations of criminal behaviour

Handbook of Crime Correlates

The Handbook of Crime Correlates collects in one source the summary analysis of crime research worldwide. It provides over 400 tables that divide crime research into nine broad categories:

Pervasiveness and intra-offending relationships
Demographic factors
Ecological and macroeconomic factors
Family and peer factors
Institutional factors
Behavioral and personality factors
Cognitive factors
Biological factors
Crime victimization and fear of crime

Within these broad categories, tables identify regions of the world and how separate variables are or are not positively or negatively associated with criminal behavior.

innocence project


all cases



Why is America the country that consumes vast majority of the world’s opioids?

Should marijuana be used as an alternative medicine for pain instead of using narcotics?

How responsive is drug use to changes in price, risk, availability, and “normalcy”?


Express Script’s A Nation in Pain

Center for Disease Control’s Opioid Data Analysis

National Safety Council — 99 percent of physicians exceed the recommended three-day dosage limit, with a quarter of them writing prescriptions for a full month and thus overprescribing these types of medications.


Pew Research Center’s Guns

Despite lower crime rates, support for gun rights increases

The demographics and politics of gun-owning households

Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Victimization During Household Burglary

Lists of data compiled from other sources. Cite the original source, not these compilations of data.

Smart Gun Law’s Statistics’s Facts

Shooting Tracker

Everytown’s Gun Violence by the Numbers ( Research

Gun Violence Archive’s Charts and Maps

Gun crime statistics by US state: latest data (mostly from the FBI)

These links will all take you to the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, which collects and links to articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. If you use these sources, you should cite the journal where they were published, not this National Library of Medicine listing of them.

Firearm availability and female homicide victimization rates among 25 populous high-income countries.

Homicide, suicide, and unintentional firearm fatality: comparing the United States with other high-income countries, 2003.

Firearms and adolescent suicide. A community case-control study.

The presence and accessibility of firearms in the homes of adolescent suicides. A case-control study.

Adolescent suicide and household access to firearms in Colorado: results of a case-control study.

Firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths, suicide, and homicide among 5-14 year olds.

Gun threats against and self-defense gun use by California adolescents.

Injuries and deaths due to firearms in the home.

Homicide-suicide and other violent deaths: an international comparison.

Weapon involvement and injury outcomes in family and intimate assaults.

From gunstore to smoking gun: tracking guns that kill children in North Carolina.

Firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths, suicide, and homicide among 5-14 year olds.

Gun ownership and firearm-related deaths.

Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault

Firearm legislation and firearm-related fatalities in the United States.

Annals of Internal Medicine’s  The Accessibility of Firearms and Risk for Suicide and Homicide Victimization Among Household Members: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

New England Journal of Medicine’s Preventing Gun Deaths in Children

John Hopkins’ Center for Gun Policy and Research – Intimate Partner Violence and Firearms


U.S. Bureau of Prison’s Statistics’s

States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2016

States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context

Pew Research Center’s Incarceration’s Prison

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Jail Inmates in 2015

Local jail inmates and jail facilities

State and federal prisoners and prison facilities


Prison Rape

Women/juvenile prisons?

Death penalty information

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)’s Statistics

Connecticut’s Minimum conviction penalties


Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Databases


Lengths of American participation in wars

Overseas interventions of the United States

United States military casualties of war

Our World in Data’s Nuclear weapons

Correlates of War’s Datasets

War in Afghanistan

War in North-West Pakistan

International campaign against ISIL

Drone strikes

Size of the military budget


Resource Links

Other issues

sports liability
sports monopolies
sports gambling

Statista’s Gambling

+ pdf


Has the crime rate risen or dropped in the past 30 years?
Does anything going on in the world affect crime rate?
How can future crimes be prevented?

How much crime was committed in the past? 2004, almost 1.5 million violent crimes committed in US.
How much crime is there now? In 2010, dropped to 1.2 million.

Should we up the training to become a police officer?
Should we keep the death penalty?
Should woman go to jail for making a false rape accusation?

Should we restrict the people who are able to purchase guns?
Should we stop the sale of guns to the public completely?
How many homicides involve guns each year?

What is the second Amendment ?
Why do most people own a gun?
Do gun laws work?
How have gun control laws/restrictions changed in the last 50-100 years?
What kind of weapons should/should not be controlled by the government? How has this changed over the years?
What age/genders/races own the most guns? Why is this? Does this effect the rate of violent crimes?

Guns/weapons- relating to violent crimes in America. How many per year are directly related? Can this be stopped?

What are the rates/statistics related to other countries?

Why don’t people report their rape?
How come the incarceration rate is so low for people who commit a rape?



What is the incarceration rate in the U.S.? What was it before, has it increased or decreased?

Are there more incarceration in certain neighborhoods with certain ethnicities than others?

Where are more incarcerated people held? (local jails, state prisons, etc.)

How much are taxpayers paying to keep prisons open?

What percentage of incarcerated people  are later found to be innocent, are they mostly a certain ethnicity?

Which states have the highest incarceration rates? Why?

Do most jails provide recidivism?

What is being done about prison rape?

Why are so many Americans incarcerated?

Is it mostly men/women/children?

Was it always like this? How and what has changed from then until now?

What crimes are sending most people to jail/

What is the average time a person spends in jail?

Repeat offenders? & what can we do so we have less repeat offenders?

How are those incarcerated treated?

Death penalty

Should the death penalty be allowed to be used in the United States?

Is the death penalty worth having it in the United States?

How often is the death penalty used in any case of murder or death?

How many people are killed each year and have the death penalty used on the person that had killed them?

How many people in the United States believe that the death penalty is right and how many believe that it is completely wrong to use?

How much is being spent on war and weapons?
How much revenue is being made from the manufacturing and selling of weapons?
How much money are other countries spending on war and weapons?
How much has spending on war and weapons increased in the past to present?

International comparisons

(sources on Power and Money page)

military expenditure per capita, US$1,900--750----900
military and paramilitary personnel (number per 1,000)2,300,000 (7.3)700,000 (10)46,000 (2.7)3,500,000 (2.6)2,000,000 (10)85,000 (3.6)
guns, per 100 residents1121535822
prisoners, per 100,00069345069--307162
capital punishment, number executions420047000
intentional homicide, per 100,000 residents (number of homicides)42 (12,200)5011 (125)1021010 (238)
police officers, per 100,000 residents2433650.9----222
cannabis, % adult annual use16.01.27.0--2.610.0
safety, % yes426662--1549
Crime Index485029347142
Quality of Life Index, rank1650849372
happiness, rank1333783179

Violent Crime Rates in the U.S.

Violent Crime Rates in the U.S.

Relevant data

The U.S. outpaces the rest of the world in private gun ownership. We have more guns than people.

  1. United States 112 guns per 100 people
  2. Serbia 75 guns per 100 people
  3. Yemen 54
  4. Cyprus 36
  5. Saudi Arabia 35
  6. Iraq 34

The U.S. also leads the world in the percentage of the population that is in jail or prison. The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population but 22% of its prisoners.

That’s not because the U.S. has more crime. In fact, the U.S. has less crime than many other countries with much lower incarceration rates. In spite of what politicians tell you, crime has been decreasing for decades.

violent-crime-incarcerationThe U.S. is the world’s jailer because we, as a society, have chosen the option of locking up hundreds of thousands of young black men for decades at a time.

We are now spending $80 billion a year to imprison 2.2 million Americans, who are disproportionately African-American, Latino and Native American. We have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including China, which is home to four times as many people.

Given the nature of complex human behavior, there is not always a bright line where criminal behavior begins. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that about half of the crimes committed are reported to or detected by a law enforcement agency. After that the criminal justice funnel narrows further. Conclusion: most people get away with most crimes most of the time.

Ethnic Differences in Incarceration Rates

Ethnic Differences in Incarceration Rates

Yet blacks are far more likely to be incarcerated longer than white who commit the same crimes. See Pew Research’s Incarceration gap widens between whites and blacks.

These criminal justice issues are the result of choices our society has made politically. For example, Dearborn County in rural southeastern Indiana, population 50,000, sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C. with combined populations of over 1,000,000.

What other options do we have?


Criminal justice funnel

  • How do we reform a broken criminal justice system?
  • How do we create jobs and educational opportunity for young people, not more jails and incarceration?
  • What do the U.S. political parties propose to do?
  • What options did the Australian and Dutch societies choose instead?
  • What do you think the U.S. should do? Why?