Facts About Prisons and Prisoners

sentencing project logoThe Sentencing Project–a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration–released a new fact sheet this month entitled “Facts About Prisons and Prisoners.”  Check out the statistics below.



• The number of inmates in state and federal prisons has increased nearly seven-fold from less than 200,000 in 1970 to 1,540,805 by midyear 2008. An additional 785,556 are held in local jails, for a total of 2.3 million.

• Between 2000 and 2007, the state prison population increased by an average annual rate of 1.6%, the federal population by 5.0 %, and jail population by 3.3%

• As of 2008, 1 of every 131 Americans was incarcerated in prison or jail.

• The number of persons on probation and parole has been growing dramatically along with institutional populations. There are now more than 7.3 million Americans incarcerated or on probation or parole, an increase of more than 290 percent since 1980.

• One in ten (10.4%) black males aged 25-29 was in prison or jail in 2008 as were 1 in 26 (3.8%) Hispanic males and 1 in 63 (1.6%) white males in the same age group.

• Nationally, 69 females per 100,000 women are serving a sentence in prison; 957 males per 100,000 men are in prison.

• The 2008 United States’ rate of incarceration of 762 inmates per 100,000 population is the highest in the world.



• 93% of prison inmates are male, 7% female.

• As of 2008, there were 207,700 women in state and federal prison or local jail.

• 40% of persons in prison or jail in 2008 were black and 20% were Hispanic.

• 63% of jail inmates in 2008 were unconvicted and awaiting trial, compared to 51% in 1990.

• 82% of those sentenced to state prisons in 2004 were convicted of non-violent crimes, including 34% for drug offenses, and 29% for property offenses.

• 1 in 4 jail inmates in 2002 was in jail for a drug offense, compared to 1 in 10 in 1983; drug offenders constituted 20% of state prison inmates and 55% of federal prison inmates in 2001.

• Black males have a 32% chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives; Hispanic males have a 17% chance; white males have a 6% chance.


(numbers verified by the Bureau of Justice Statistics)


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