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A weekly show where we debunk common misconceptions. This week, Elliott discusses some misconceptions about crime!

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Hi, I'm Elliott and this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today I'm going to talk about some misconceptions about crime.

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Misconception #1: Pleading insanity is often successful. 

The insanity defense is actually not that effective. According to a 1991 study done by the National Institute of Mental Health, people plead insanity in less than 1% of court cases and it only works 25% of the time. The insanity defense is also banned in 3 states, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Plus, according to Dr. Ewing, who wrote Insanity, Murder, Madness and the Law, those who succeed in pleading insanity are often sent away for longer than those who plead guilty. The difference is that they spent that time in a lockdown psychiatric facility as opposed to prison. 

Misconception #2: Violent crime is on the upswing in the U.S. 

In the United States, violent crime has actually been cut in half since 1993. Good job, you guys! In 2012, the FBI reported that there were 387 violent incidents per one hundred thousand people. That has decreased from 747 in 1993. The homicide rate alone has declined by 51% and the robbery rate has declined by 56%.

Misconception #3: Prison population is increasing because more people are going to prison.

Prison population is increasing. In fact, the number of incarcerated Americans tripled between 1980 to 2010. Currently, we have around 731 incarcerated people per every 100,000, which is by far the highest incarceration rate of any country. But it's not as simple as just more and more people are going to prison. In fact, the U.S does not have the most people sent to prison per capita in the world.

The reason that the incarcerated population in the U.S is the highest is because of the long prison sentences. For example, according to The Washington Post, "140,000 prisoners, or one of 11 inmates, are incarcerated for life, many with no chance of parole."

Misconception #4: The reason violent crime is declining is because so many criminals are incarcerated.

According to the Wall Street Journal, experts have not come to an agreement on how the massive number of prisoners affects the decrease in crime rates. William Spelman and Steven Levitt, who study prison and crime rates in the U.S, claim that those prisoners probably account for around 25% of the decrease in crime. Other possible reasons cited for the crime decline include better security systems, stationing police resources in high crime areas, and even the recent decline in cocaine use. Basically, we don't know for sure why crime is decreasing, but it's probably a combination of factors, and it's probably a really good thing, you guys.

Misconception #5: It's impossible to get tried twice for the same crime.

The U.S Constitution does protect against someone being tried twice for the same crime, known as double jeopardy, a great move by the way. But it 1992, The Supreme Court determined that, quote, "offense and conspiracy to commit the offense are not the same offense fr double jeopardy purposes." Basically, you can be tried for a crime, as well as the conspiracy to commit the same crime. Mistrials and hung juries will also result in being tried again for the same crime. So take that, murderers.

Misconception #6: Collecting and identifying DNA is easy and fast.

People who collect DNA have a lot of stuff to think about. They have to be very careful so the DNA isn't contaminated by the DNA of another person. They have to use paper bags because plastic bags can trap moisture and compromise the DNA, and they have to make sure it stays at room temperature. It's still a pretty
rare form of evidence, too. The amount of crimes that have been solved by DNA are actually less than 1%.

Misconception #7: A single person handles the bulk of a crime investigation.

You can, uh, blame TV for this misconception. It's more dramatic and fun if your favorite character is doing everything they can to catch the bad guy. But, that's not how it works in real life. The person who collects DNA at a crime scene is not the same person who will analyze it in a lab, Dexter, and it's totally separate from people who are doing the detective work, Dexter. Basically, if you're gonna pursue a career in criminal justice, you're gonna have to choose a specialty, not killing people, Dexter. 

Misconception #8: Released prisoners always end up going back to jail.

Many do. According to one study, around two thirds of released inmates end up committing another crime within three years, known as recidivism. But there's actually evidence that certain programs can lower that number. For example, in 2006, The Kentucky Department of Corrections got a 1.5 million dollar grant to implement cognitive behavioral therapy programs in prisons in the state. Within two years, the state saw a 5% decrease in recidivism.

Misconception #9: You would never suspect a white-collar criminal.

When we read about white-collar crime, it's often a story about how no one saw it coming. Sometimes, the stories emphasize how everyone thought the criminal was such a good person, but actually, 40% of white-collar criminals already have a criminal record. What?

Misconception #10: Legalizing marijuana leads to an increase in crime.

Now, we are not trying to take a stance on marijuana legalization, because there's enough of that on the internet, but I can tell you about a 2014 study done at the University of Texas at Dallas. The study looked at crime rates for every state in the U.S between 1990 and 2006. This time period included the legalization of medical marijuana in eleven states, which did not experience an increase in crime. And the researchers actually claim that the legalization of medical marijuana may be correlated with a decrease in violent crimes. How about that.

Thank you for watching Misconceptions on Mental Floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all these nice people. If you have a topic for an upcoming misconceptions video that you would like to see, please leave it in the comments. We'll check them out, and I'll see you next week. Bye!