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As with many rigorous assessments of large historical events, a high level of scientific certainty about the effects of increased incarceration rates is elusive.The relationships between incarceration, crime, sentencing policy, social inequality, and the dozens of other variables that describe the growth of incarceration are complex, variable across time and place, and mutually determining.Public policy of the 1960s was moving in a liberal direction, through an expansion of social programs and stronger rights for criminal defendants and prisoners, but these measures did not appear to stem the rise in crime.
Across all branches and levels of government, the policies governing criminal processing and sentencing were reformed to expand the use of incarceration.
Prison time was increasingly required for lesser offenses.
CONCLUSION: The growth in incarceration rates in the United States over the past 40 years is historically unprecedented and internationally unique.
The growth of incarceration rates, beginning in 1972, followed a tumultuous period of social and political change (see Chapter 4).
Time served was significantly increased for violent crimes and for repeat offenses.
Drug crimes, particularly street dealing in urban areas, became policed and punished more severely (see Chapter 3).
From 1962 to 1972, the annual number of homicides had climbed from 8,530 to 18,670.
Homicide was just one indicator of declining public safety, as the overall violent crime rate doubled in that same decade (Maguire, n.d., Table 3.106.2011).
It was in these neighborhoods, decades later, where the effects of incarceration were felt most strongly.
Historic changes in politics, race relations, and urban life provided the context in which policy makers wrestled with the crime problem.