Jail Populations Keep Falling, Down 11.2% in 8 Years

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The percentage of U.S. residents in jail dropped 3.4 percent from midyear 2012 to midyear 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported  on Thursday. The jail incarceration rate fell from 237 inmates per 100,000 residents at midyear 2012 to 229 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents at midyear 2016. The incarceration rate fell 11.2 percent from midyear 2008, when there were 258 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, to midyear 2016.

County and city jails held 740,700 inmates at midyear 2016. This was below the peak of 785,500 inmates in 2008, the year with the most jail inmates since 1982, when the agency began its annual jail survey. In 2016, jails reported 10.6 million admissions, continuing a steady decline since 2008, when there were 13.6 million. On average, those admitted to jail in 2016 stayed 25 days. At the end of 2016, 65 percent of those in jail were not convicted of an offense but were awaiting court action on a current charge. The remaining 35 percent were sentenced offenders or convicted offenders awaiting sentencing. Nearly 7 in 10 inmates were held in jail on felony charges, while 1 in 4 were held for misdemeanor offenses.

The rate at which people were held in local jails varied widely by racial and ethnic groups. At year-end 2016, non-Hispanic blacks (599 per 100,000 black U.S. residents) had the highest jail incarceration rate, followed by American Indian or Alaska Natives (359 per 100,000 American Indian or Alaska Natives residents). Hispanics (185 per 100,000 Hispanic residents) and non-Hispanic whites (171 per 100,000 white residents) were incarcerated in jails at a similar rate at year-end 2016. Blacks were incarcerated in jail at a rate 3.5 times that of whites at year-end 2016. This was down from 5.6 times the rate in 2000.

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