Prisons, Jails, and the Corrections System: Overview

Related Chapters:
Drugs and Prison
Race and Prison
Crime, Arrests and Law Enforcement

Page last updated July 16, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

41. Growth in Imprisonment Rate, 2000-2007

"During 2007, the prison population increased more rapidly than the U.S. resident population. The imprisonment rate — the number of sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents — increased from 501 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2006 to 506 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2007. From 2000 through 2007, the imprisonment rate increased from 475 per 100,000 U.S. residents to 506 per 100,000 U.S. residents. During these seven years, the number of sentenced prisoners increased by 15% while the general population increased by 6.4%."

Sabol, William J., PhD, and West, Heather C., Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2007 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, December 2008), NCJ224280, p. 1.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

42. Sexual Violence in US Prisons and Jails, 2011-2012

"The estimated number of prison and jail inmates experiencing sexual victimization totaled 80,600 (or 4.0% of all prison inmates and 3.2% of jail inmates nationwide) (table 1).
"Among all state and federal prison inmates, 2.0% (or an estimated 29,300 prisoners) reported an incident involving another inmate, and 2.4% (34,100) reported an incident involving facility staff. Some prisoners (0.4% or 5,500) reported sexual victimization by both another inmate and facility staff.
"Among all jail inmates, about 1.6% (11,900) reported an incident with another inmate, and 1.8% (13,200) reported an incident with staff. Approximately 0.2% of jail inmates (2,400) reported being sexually victimized by both another inmate and staff."

Beck, Allen J., PhD, Berzofsky, Marcus, DrPH, and Krebs, Christopher, PhD, "Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2013), NCJ241399, p. 8.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

43. Allegations of Sexual Violence Against Inmates Reported by Adult Correctional Facilities in the US 2011

"In 2011, correctional administrators reported 8,763 allegations of sexual victimization in prisons, jails, and other adult correctional facilities (figure 1). About half (51%) involved allegations of nonconsensual sexual acts or abusive sexual contacts of inmates with other inmates, and half (49%) involved staff sexual misconduct or sexual harassment directed toward inmates. About 10% of the allegations (902) were substantiated based on follow-up investigation. While the number of allegations has risen since 2005 (6,241), the number substantiated has remained nearly unchanged (885 in 2005)."

Allen J. Beck, PhD, Ramona R. Rantala, and Jessica Rexroat, "Sexual Victimization Reported by Adult Correctional Authorities, 2009-11" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 2014), NCJ243904.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

44. Rates of Inmate-on-Inmate Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails

"• Rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization among prison inmates were higher among females (6.9%) than males (1.7%), higher among whites (2.9%) or inmates of two or more races (4.0%) than among blacks (1.3%), higher among inmates with a college degree (2.7%) than among inmates who had not completed high school (1.9%), and lower among currently married inmates (1.4%) than among inmates who never married (2.1%) (table 7).
??"• Similar patterns of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization were reported by jail inmates. Female jail inmates (3.6%), whites (2.0%), and inmates with a college degree (3.0%) reported higher rates of victimization than males (1.4%), blacks (1.1%), and inmates who had not completed high school (1.4%).
??"• Rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization were unrelated to age among state and federal prisoners, except for slightly lower rates among inmates age 55 or older.
??"• Rates were lower among jail inmates in the oldest age categories (ages 35 to 44, 45 to 54, and 55 or older) than among jail inmates ages 20 to 24."

Beck, Allen J., PhD, Berzofsky, Marcus, DrPH, and Krebs, Christopher, PhD, "Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2013), NCJ241399, pp. 17-18.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

45. Patterns of Prison and Jail Staff Sexual Misconduct

"The reported use or threat of physical force to engage in sexual activity with staff was generally low among all prison and jail inmates (0.8%); however, at least 5% of the inmates in three state prisons and one high-rate jail facility reported they had been physically forced or threatened with force. (See appendix tables 3 and 7.) The Clements Unit (Texas) had the highest percentage of inmates reporting sexual victimization involving physical force or threat of force by staff (8.1%), followed by Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (Colorado) (7.3%), and Idaho Maximum Security Institution (6.0%). Wilson County Jail (Kansas) led all surveyed jails, with 5.6% of inmates reporting that staff used physical force or threat of force to have sex or sexual contact.
"While 0.8% of prison and jail inmates reported the use or threat of physical force, an estimated 1.4% of prison inmates and 1.2% of jail inmates reported being coerced by facility staff without any use or threat of force, including being pressured or made to feel they had to have sex or sexual contact. In 8 of the 24 facilities with high rates of staff sexual misconduct, at least 5% of the inmates reported such pressure by staff. Among state prisoners, the highest rates were reported by female inmates in the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (Colorado) (8.8%) and by male inmates in the Clements Unit (Texas) (8.7%). Among jail inmates, the highest rates were reported by inmates in the Rose M. Singer Center (New York) (5.6%) and the Contra Costa County Martinez Detention Facility (California) (5.2%)."

Beck, Allen J., PhD, Berzofsky, Marcus, DrPH, and Krebs, Christopher, PhD, "Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011-2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2013), NCJ241399, p. 14.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

46. Prison Growth

"The United States has adopted a set of criminal justice policies that has produced a tidal wave of imprisonment in this country. Between 1970 and 2005, the number of men, women, and children locked up in this country has grown by an historically unprecedented 700%. As a result, the United States locks up almost a quarter of the prisoners in the entire world. In fact, if all our prisoners were confined in one city, that city would be the fourth largest in the country."

Alexander, Elizabeth, "Michigan Breaks the Political Logjam: A New Model for Reducing Prison Populations," American Civil Liberties Union (November 2009), p. 3.
http://www.aclu.org/files/asse...

47. Prisons - Data - 11-28-11

(Federal Prison Overcrowding) "The number of inmates held in BOP [Bureau of Prisons] facilities grew from 125,560 in FY200051 to 180,725 as of September 2011. From FY2000–FY2010, prison crowding grew from 32% over rated capacity to 37% over rated capacity, despite the fact that the number of facilities operated by BOP increased from 97 to 116. The growing federal prison population has not only resulted in more crowded prisons, but it has also strained BOP’s ability to properly manage and care for federal inmates."

Sacco, Lisa N. and Finklea, Kristin M., "Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, October 28, 2011), p. 12.
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mis...

48. Justice System Growth 1982-2003

"The increase in justice expenditures over nearly 20 years reflects the expansion of the Nation's justice system. For example, in 1982 the justice system employed approximately 1.27 million persons; in 2003 it reached over 2.3 million.
"Police protection
"One indicator of police workload, the FBI's arrest estimates for State and local police agencies, grew from 12 million in 1982 to an estimated 13.6 million in 2003. The number of employees in police protection increased from approximately 724,000 to over 1.1 million.
"Judicial and legal
"The judicial and legal workload, including civil and criminal cases, prosecutor functions, and public defender services, also expanded during this period. Cases of all kinds (criminal, civil, domestic, juvenile, and traffic) filed in the nearly 16,000 general and limited jurisdiction State courts went from about 86 million to 100 million in the 16-year period, 1987-2003. The total of judicial and legal employees grew about 101% to over 494,000 persons in 2003.
"Corrections
"The total number of State and Federal inmates grew from 403,000 in 1982 to over 1.4 million in 2003. The number of local jail inmates more than tripled from approximately 207,000 in 1982 to over 691,000 in 2003. Adults on probation increased from over 1.4 million to about 4.1 million persons. Overall, corrections employment more than doubled from nearly 300,000 to over 748,000 during this same period."

Hughes, Kristen A., "Justice Expenditure and Employment in the United States, 2003" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, April 2006), NCJ212260, p. 7.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

49. Parents in Prison

"Mothers in state prison (58%) were more likely than fathers (49%) to report having a family member who had also been incarcerated (table 11). Parents in state prison most commonly reported a brother (34%), followed by a father (19%). Among mothers in state prison, 13% reported a sister and 8% reported a spouse. Six percent of fathers reported having a sister who had also been incarcerated; 2%, a spouse.
"While growing up, 40% of parents in state prison reported living in a household that received public assistance, 14% reported living in a foster home, agency, or institution at some time during their youth, and 43% reported living with both parents most of the time (appendix table 11). Mothers (17%) held in state prison were more likely than fathers (14%) to report living in a foster home, agency, or institution at some time during their youth. Parents in federal prison reported lower percentages of growing up in a household that received public assistance (31%) or living in a foster home, agency, or institution (7%). These characteristics varied little by gender for parents held in federal prison.
"More than a third (34%) of parents in state prison reported that during their youth, their parents or guardians had abused alcohol or drugs. Mothers in state prison (43%) were more likely than fathers (33%) to have had this experience. Fewer parents (27%) in federal prison reported having a parent or a guardian who had abused alcohol or drugs."

Glaze, Lauren E. and Maruschak, Laura M., "Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jan. 2009), NCJ222984, p. 7.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

50. Parents in Prison

"Thirty-seven percent of parents held in state prison reported living with at least one of their children in the month before arrest, 44% reported just prior to incarceration, and 48% reported at either time (table 7). Mothers were more likely than fathers to report living with at least one child. More than half of mothers held in state prison reported living with at least one of their children in the month before arrest, compared to 36% of fathers. More than 6 in 10 mothers reported living with their children just prior to incarceration or at either time, compared to less than half of fathers.
"Parents held in federal prison were more likely than those held in state prison to report living with a child in the month before arrest, just prior to incarceration, or at either time (appendix table 7). Mothers in federal prison were more likely than fathers to report living with a child."

Glaze, Lauren E. and Maruschak, Laura M., "Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Aug. 2008), NCJ222984, p. 4.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

51. Total Spending on Corrections by State Governments

"In fiscal 2015, corrections spending represented 3.1 percent of total state spending and 6.8 percent of general fund spending. General fund dollars are the primary source for state corrections and accounted for $50.9 billion, or 89.5 percent, of all fiscal 2015 state corrections spending. State funds (general funds and other state funds combined, but excluding bonds) accounted for 97.7 percent of total state corrections spending in fiscal 2015. Federal funds accounted for 1.2 percent and bonds accounted for 1.0 percent."

National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), "State Expenditure Report: Examining Fiscal 2014-2016 State Spending," (Washington, DC: NASBO, 2016), p. 54.
http://www.nasbo.org/reports-d...
https://higherlogicdownload.s3...

52. Trends in State Spending on Corrections in the US

"State spending on corrections reflects the costs to build and operate prison systems and may include spending on juvenile justice systems and my include spending on juvenile justice programs and alternatives to incarceration such as probation and parole. State spending for corrections totaled $56.9 billion in fiscal 2015, compared to $55.3 billion in fiscal 2014, a 3.0 percent increase in total spending with state funds increasing 3.1 percent and federal funds declining 1.4 percent. State spending on corrections in fiscal 2016 is estimated to total $58.0 billion, a 2.0 percent increase from fiscal 2015. State funds are estimated to increase by 2.1 percent, while federal funds are estimated to increase by 3.6 percent.
"Although state spending on corrections is estimated to increase for fiscal 2016, the growth rate has slowed. For several years states have been making criminal justice reforms to address the cost drivers of corrections expenditures, including limiting growth in inmate populations. Many states are examining their criminal justice systems and implementing reforms to concentrate resources on the most violent offenders while ensuring other offenders are equipped with the tools and supports needed to successfully transition back to the community. These reforms include alternatives to incarceration, earning sentence credits for good behavior, other sentencing changes, parole reforms, and increased treatment to address mental health and substance abuse disorders. And while several states have been successful in reducing the growth of their inmate population, costs continue to increase due to programming investments, increasing inmate health care expenditures, costly maintenance of aging facilities, and the personnel costs associated with running institutions."

National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), "State Expenditure Report: Examining Fiscal 2014-2016 State Spending," (Washington, DC: NASBO, 2016), p. 54.
http://www.nasbo.org/reports-d...
https://higherlogicdownload.s3...

53. State Expenditure Per Prison Inmate

According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2010, state corrections institutions spent $37.3 billion to imprison a total of 1,316,858 inmates. BJS estimates that the mean expenditures per capita was $28,323. There was a wide range in state spending: the bottom 25th percentile averaged only $21,417, the 50th percentile averaged $29,094, and the 75th percentile averaged $40,175.

Kyckelhahn, Tracey, "State Corrections Expenditures, FY 1982-2010" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2012), NCJ239672, Table 2, p. 4.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

54. Growth in State Spending on Corrections in the US

"State correctional spending patterns reflect the rise in the prison population that began in the early 1980’s and persisted until 2010.17 Expansion of the state prison population required increased spending for capital infrastructure, the state employee workforce, and the administrative needs of the judicial system. From fiscal 1986 to fiscal 2012, spending from state funds18 for corrections increased by 427 percent
from $9.9 billion to $52.4 billion (without adjusting for inflation).19 By comparison, total spending from state funds increased by 315 percent over the same time period.
"For many states, the effect of disproportionate growth in correctional spending led to a larger share of general fund dollars going to corrections. Since the mid 1980’s, the share of general fund budgets going to corrections doubled in 15 states and increased by at least half in 31 states.20 In the aggregate, corrections spending has gone from 4.7 percent of general fund spending in fiscal 1986 to 7.0 percent in fiscal 2012, an increase of 2.3 percentage points. This additional 2.3 percent of state general funds was equivalent to $15 billion in fiscal 2012.21
"Corrections expenditures, as a percent of spending from total state funds, (general funds, other state funds and bonds), have remained more stable, and the rate of increase has been lower compared to the growth in general fund spending. Corrections spending as a share of state funds has gone from 3.6 percent in fiscal 1986 to 4.6 percent in fiscal 2012, an increase of 1 percent.22 This figure has
remained more stable due to the rise in earmarked funds or trust funds in other program areas besides corrections that designate revenues for specific purposes set by statute. For example, higher education derives much of its state funding from designated revenue streams outside the general fund. To some extent, this trend may have insulated other program areas from budgetary pressures related to increased general fund spending for corrections."

"State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms," National Association of State Budget Officers (Washington, DC: NASBO, Sept. 11, 2013), p. 4.
https://ncjrs.gov/...

55. State Drug Reforms As Cost-Saving Mechanisms

"In general, states are targeting criminal justice reforms to address the cost drivers of correctional budgets in such a way that public safety is not put at risk. For example, 21 states have amended drug offense classification and penalties since 2010.26 Justice reforms that seek incarceration alternatives for drug offenders have demonstrated cost savings and improved outcomes, especially for non-violent drug offenders. Texas appropriated $240 million in the 2008-2009 biennium for correctional programs focusing on treatment, rehabilitation and enhanced local supervision and discretion. The state’s reforms led to $443 million in estimated savings that were utilized for other areas of the corrections budget.27 Justice reinvestment reforms are relying more on local government discretion as well, to enhance probation and parole oversight. Twenty states have enacted graduated sanctions for technical parole violations to help states reduce prison costs and the number of inmates.28
"Despite the demonstrated successes of criminal justice reforms, cost savings have yet to produce an overall decline in corrections spending. However, the policy reforms are improving the way states spend money for corrections, and the outcomes show better results for individuals and citizens. Over time, the cost savings from smart, criminal justice polices may lead to correctional spending declines, an outcome that would benefit all of state government."

"State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms," National Association of State Budget Officers (Washington, DC: NASBO, Sept. 11, 2013), p. 5.
https://ncjrs.gov/App...

56. Growth in State Spending on Corrections, 1986-2001

"State spending for corrections increased from $65 per resident in 1986 to $134 in 2001 (table 1). Per capita expenditures for State prison operations alone rose from $49 in 1986 to $104 in 2001.
"At an average annual increase of 6.2% for total State correctional spending and 6.4% specifically for prisons, increases in the cost of adult incarceration outpaced those of health care (5.8%), education (4.2%), and natural resources (3.3%).
"Although correctional spending grew at a faster rate than many other State boards and programs (including court payments between 1986 and 2001, it remained one of the smaller cost items. For example, the outlay for education, at $374.5 billion, was nearly 10 times larger, and that for welfare, at $260.3 billion, was nearly 7 times larger."

Stephan, James J., "State Prison Expenditures, 2001," Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, June, 2004), NCJ202949, p. 2.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

57. AIDS Deaths in Local Jails in the US

From 2000 through 2014, a total of 569 people died from AIDS-related illnesses while serving time in a local jail in the US. Of those, 98 were white non-Latinx, 395 were black non-Latinx, 73 were Latinx, and 3 were "other."
In 2015, a total of 10 people serving time in local jails in the US died from AIDS-related illnesses.

Noonan, Margaret E., "Mortality in Local Jails, 2000-2014 - Statistical Tables" (Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2016), NCJ250169, Tables 1 and 2, p. 5; Table 8, p. 10; and Table 21, p. 20.
https://www.bjs.gov/content/pu...

58. Prison Population Growth Rates 1995-2005

"The rate of growth of the State prison population slowed between 1995 and 2001 and then began to rise. During this time the percentage change in the first 6 months of each year steadily decreased, reaching a low of 0.6% in 2001, and then rose to 1.0% in 2005 (table 2). The percentage change in the second 6 months of each year showed a similar trend, resulting in an actual decrease in State prison populations for the second half of 2000 and 2001.
"Since 1995 the Federal system has grown at a much higher rate than the States, peaking at 6.0% growth in the first 6 months of 1999. In the first 6 months of 2005, the number of Federal inmates increased 2.3%, more than twice the rate of State growth."

Harrison, Paige M. & Allen J. Beck, Allen J., PhD, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005" (Washington DC: US Department of Justice, May 2006), p. 2.
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub...

59. Sexual Violence in Prison

"In December 2000, the Prison Journal published a study based on a survey of inmates in seven men's prison facilities in four states. The results showed that 21 percent of the inmates had experienced at least one episode of pressured or forced sexual contact since being incarcerated, and at least 7 percent had been raped in their facility. A 1996 study of the Nebraska prison system produced similar findings, with 22 percent of male inmates reporting that they had been pressured or forced to have sexual contact against their will while incarcerated. Of these, over 50 percent had submitted to forced anal sex at least once. Extrapolating these findings to the national level gives a total of at least 140,000 inmates who have been raped."

Human Rights Watch, "No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons," (New York, NY: April 2001), p. 10.
http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/...

60. Prisons & Jail - Data - 10-29-10

(Educational Level of Prisoners) "With the emphasis on law enforcement over education, it is no surprise that according to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy Prison Survey, 37 percent of people in U.S. prisons had not finished high school. Only 4 out of 10 (41 percent) had a high school education or GED equivalent; 74 percent had parents who had a high school education or less; and 26 percent had parents who did not finish high school.165"

Lyons, Sarah & Walsh, Nastassia, "Money Well Spent: How positive social investments will reduce incarceration rates, improve public safety, and promote the well-being of communities," Justice Policy Institute (Washington, DC: September 2010), p. 31.
http://www.justicepolicy.org/i...

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