Expert Commentary

U.S. incarceration and correctional population levels: U.S. Justice Department

2011 reports from the U.S. Department of Justice with census of imprisoned and paroled persons.

Among all nations, the United States continues to incarcerate the greatest number of individuals, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at the University of Essex. The U.S. rate of incarceration has dramatically increased over the past few decades, but analysis of underlying data shows the reasons are complex and varied.

In December 2011, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, issued two reports, “Prisoners in 2010” and “Correctional Population in the United States, 2010,” updating information on both the overall levels of incarceration and on correctional supervision.

The findings of the two reports, whose statistics are updated through year end 2010, include:

  • In 2010, the overall number of prisoners under federal or state authority was 1,605,127, representing a slight decline (9,228) from 2009. This means that 497 U.S. residents per 100,000 are held within these higher jurisdictions, or 1 in every 201 residents.
  • The figure for all of those incarcerated in the United States — including local jails — is estimated at 2,266,800 in 2010, down 1.1% from 2009. However, that overall incarceration figure has grown 1.9% since 2000.
  • “About half (51%) of federal inmates in 2010 were serving time for drug offenses, 35% for public-order offenses (largely weapons and immigration), and less than 10% each for violent and property offenses.”
  • In terms of levels in 2010 of males incarcerated at all levels — federal, state and local jurisdictions — broken down by race, there were 4,347 black males incarcerated per 100,000 residents, 1,775 Latino males per 100,000 and 678 white males per 100,000.
  • The total number of people under all types of supervision of adult correctional authorities — meaning both those on probation and parole, as well as those incarcerated at all levels — was 7.1 million in 2010, a figure that declined slightly from the previous year. This represents about 3% of the U.S. population, or 1 in every 33 adults.

The reports also provide detailed information about the level of incarceration among the 50 states, and percentage changes over time.

Tags: crime, race, prisons, African-American, Latino, Hispanic, race, guns

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