On any given day, there are 2.4 million people in American prisons, which include 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,259 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories.
About one-sixth of the total prison population—428,312 people—are people not convicted of a crime, most of them being held in local jails because they can’t make bail. Writers for Public Policy Iniative, which produced the chart above, said 12 million people cycle through American jails in the course of a year.
The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate. We have 5 percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of its prisoners. I don’t see any justification for this.
The problem is complicated. I don’t see any one thing—drug law reform, immigration law reform, repeal of federal mandatory prison sentences, an end to “policing for profit”, an end to trying juveniles as adults—that would turn things around.
But the U.S. prison population is slowly diminishing anyhow. “Complicated” is not the same as “impossible”.
New BJS Report Shows Once Again Declining Incarceration Rates by Dianna Muldrow for Right on Crime, a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.