The prison population in the United States keeps on growing. A good thing, say those who note crime keeps coming down at the same time. Others wonder if the costs of locking up 2 million prisoners are too much – and if, perhaps there are better ways to “correct” criminals so fewer return to jail once they've been released.
Number of criminals:
In prison: 1.4 million (2005) DOJ (pdf)
In jail: 0.7 million (2005) DOJ (pdf)
On parole: 0.8 million (2005) DOJ (pdf)
On probation: 4.2 million (2005) DOJ (pdf)
State vs. Federal
Number of prisoners DOJ
- In state prisons and local jails: 2 million
- In federal prisons: 169 thousand
Compared to the rest of the world
- With 715 prisoners per 100,000 Americans, the US has the highest imprisonment rate in the world NationMaster
- 2nd place: Russia, with 584 prisoners per 100,000
- Western European nation with highest rate: Spain with 144 per 100,000
- Honorable mention: Japan has 54 prisoners per 100,000
What prisoners are in for: DOJ
In state prisons:
- Violent offenses: 49%
- Drug offences: 20%
- Property offences: 19%
- Public order offences: 11%
In federal prisons:
- Drug offenses: 55%
- Public order offenses: 26%, of that:
- 11% immigration
- 9% guns
- Violent offences: 11%
- Property offences: 7%
Recidivists are criminals who come back to prison for at least one more round after they've been released. Recidivism rates in the United States are higher than one would expect, prompting criticism that US Correctional Institutions are failing to accomplish their main goal – correction.
How many are released ever year from: CSG
- Jails: 7 million
- Prisons: 650 thousand
Recidivism Rates DOJ '94
Within three years of release from prison, how many
- Are rearrested: 67.5%
- Return to prison with a new sentence: 25.4%
Where the facts are from:
- DOJ - Department of Justice
- CSG - Council of State Governments
- Albany - Sourcebook at University of Albany
Other recommended readings:
- a report on federal prison populations and length of sentences from the US Sentencing Commission.
- a report from the Council on State Governments on re-entry into the prison and jail system - with bipartisan policy recommendations on how to help ex-cons readjust to nonprison life.
- a Washington Post op-ed arguing the only thing that will stop recidivism is better law enforcement.
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