Report: Jail Population Declines Outpace Those of Fed, State Prisons


An analysis of new data on jail populations in the U.S. shows that the number of people confined in local jails is declining more rapidly than in state and federal prisons. The Sentencing Project finds that from 2007-2010 the incarceration rate in jails declined by more than three times the rate of prisons, 6.6 percent compared to 1.8 percent. The prison and jail population declines “has produced no adverse effects on public safety,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project. “We now have the opportunity to free up resources for public safety initiatives that do not depend on record rates of incarceration.”

The analysis by the Sentencing Project, a non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice policy, is based on data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in its annual report of individuals in jail. The report shows a decline in the number of inmates for the third consecutive year. Jails are local facilities that generally house persons awaiting trial or serving short sentences, while prisons are run by state and federal governments to confine persons sentenced to one year or more of incarceration. The BJS report also documents a sharp 23.4 percent reduction in the number of juveniles housed in adult jails between 2008-2011. The practice of housing juveniles with adults has come under broad criticism.

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