The Economist has an article ("What's America's real crime rate?"). Some insights from it:
- America has the highest imprisonment in the world and more people are in prison than in Stalin's Soviet Union.
- America's crime rates would be considerably higher if crimes inside prisons were added.
- Crime inside America's prisons is accepted and not punished. Abu Ghraib showed the world what is considered normal in US prisons.
One aspect that helps maintain the present situation is the privatization of many prisons.
One interesting element in this discussion is that New York saw its crimes rates fall at a time when its incarceration rate was falling too ("Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts").
Slate listed The best articles about the biggest problems with the U.S. prison system.