The percentage of U.S. residents in jail dropped 3.4 percent from midyear 2012 to midyear 2016, says U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. County and city jails held 740,700 inmates at midyear 2016, far below the peak of 785,500 in 2008.
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.
Thirty-six states have reduced imprisonment rates since 2008, including declines of 15 percent or more in 20 states from diverse regions, says the Pew Charitable Trusts.
After peaking in 2008, the U.S. imprisonment rate fell 11 percent over eight years, reaching its lowest level since 1997, write Adam Gelb and Jacob Denney of the Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project. The decline from 2015 to 16 was 2 percent, mostly because of a drop in federal prisoners. The rate at which black adults are imprisoned declined 29 percent over the past decade. The ongoing decrease in imprisonment has occurred alongside long-term reductions in crime, the Pew writers say. Since 2008, the combined national violent and property crime rate dropped 23 percent.
On prisons, 36 states have reduced imprisonment rates since 2008, including declines of 15 percent or more in 20 states from diverse regions, such as Alaska, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Connecticut. Almost every state recorded a crime decrease with no apparent correlation to imprisonment. Across the 45 states with crime drops from 2008-16, imprisonment rate changes ranged from a 35 percent decrease to a 14 percent increase. The violent crime rate increased nationally in 2015 and 2016, but many cities are reporting reductions for 2017. Both violent and total crime rates remain near record lows. National, state, and local crime rates change for what Gelb and Denny call “complex and poorly understood reasons.” Overall, rates of reported violent and property crime have declined by more than half since 1991 peaks, falling to levels not seen since the late 1960s. Starting with Texas in 2007, more than 30 states have changed sentencing and corrections practices, aiming at improving public safety and controlling costs.
The Prison Policy Initiative identifies more than 30 states, including Texas and Michigan, that it says are driving a “gender divide” in imprisonment.
States have made progress over the last 10 years in reducing their prison populations, but as men’s incarceration rates are falling, women’s incarceration rates hover near record highs, reports the Prison Policy Initiative. The advocacy group identifies more than 30 states driving this national “gender divide.” Sixty-two percent of women, are separated from minor children when they are put behind bars. “Few people know what’s happening in their own states,” says Wendy Sawyer, author of “The Gender Divide: Tracking Women’s State Prison Growth.”
Texas has reduced its men’s prison population by 6,000, while backfilling its prisons with 1,100 more women, the group says. Michigan’s female prison population grew 30 percent from 2009 to 2015, while the number of men in Michigan prisons fell by 8 percent. Six other states have seen men’s prison populations decline as women’s inmate populations have climbed. The report includes more than 100 state-specific graphs tracking 40 years of women’s prison growth. It discusses the causes of women’s mass incarceration, including the war on drugs, harsh sentencing for violent offenses, and the growing frequency of women serving jail time. Women in prison are uniquely burdened by mental health problems and trauma. Sawyer contends that most prisons, which were designed for men, “make those problems worse.” The appropriate response, she says, “is not to build better prisons – it’s to ensure women are included in reforms that move people away from prisons.”