The U.S. corrections population declined for the third consecutive year, according to figures for 2011 recently released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS): the numbers decreased from 7,231,400 individuals in 2009, to 7,079,500 in 2010, to 6,977,700 in 2011. These figures represent individuals incarcerated under federal, state, and local jurisdiction, as well as offenders under community supervision (probation and parole). (See Figure 1.)
At year-end 2011, 1,504,150 offenders were incarcerated under federal or state jurisdiction. An additional 735,601 individuals were in custody under local jurisdiction, for a total of 2,239,751 incarcerated individuals in the U.S. This figure includes offenders in privately operated facilities and community corrections centers, but does not include inmates held in U.S. territories, in military facilities, in U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) facilities, in jails in Indian country, and in juvenile facilities. (See Table 1.)
In addition, 4,814,200 persons in 2011 were under community supervision-probation and parole. In 2011, the total correctional population-individuals under community supervision (probation and parole) and individuals incarcerated in federal, state, and local jails-dropped by 1.4 percent from 2010. Figure 1 shows the U.S. corrections populations from 1980 to present.
Prisoners and Imprisonment Rates
The numbers discussed above are incarceration figures which include the total of sentenced and unsentenced individuals in federal, state, and local custody. The imprisonment rates which follow refer to individuals under federal or state jurisdiction who have been sentenced to more than one year. These figures exclude local jail populations.
The 2011 imprisonment rate was 716 individuals for every 100,000 people in the general U.S. population. (See Table 1.) More detailed data from BJS show that in 2011 (the most recent data available) males made up over 93 percent of the prison population sentenced to more than one year. Males had an overall imprisonment rate of 932 per 100,000 U.S. residents. The female imprisonment rate was 65 per 100,000. Of those individuals sentenced to one year or more, the imprisonment rates were 478 per 100,000 U.S. residents for white males, 3,023 per 100,000 for black males, and 1,238 per 100,000 for Hispanic males. (See Table 2.) The imprisonment rate for males was 14 times higher than for females. The rate for black males was almost 6 times higher than for white males, and the rate for Hispanic males was nearly 3 times higher than for white males. Figure 2 shows the number of sentenced offenders under federal and state jurisdiction from 1925 to 2011.
Class of Offenses and Length of Sentence
Imprisonment figures for state prisoners by most serious offense for 2010 (most recent data available) show that of those with a sentence of more than one year, 53 percent had been sentenced for a violent offense, 18 percent had a sentence related to a property offense, and 17 percent had a sentence based on a drug offense. In the federal system, however, only 8 percent of prisoners with a sentence of more than one year were incarcerated for a violent offense while 52 percent were in custody for a drug offense in 2010 (Table 3). In 2011, the percentage for drug offenses dropped to 48.
Alaska has a unified state and local prison system. At year-end 2011, there were 5,727 offenders under the supervision of the Alaska Department of Corrections; this includes in-state and out-of-state facilities, as well community residential centers and electronic monitoring. From 2010 to 2011, Alaska reported an increase of about one percent in the inmate population. (See "Alaska Correctional Populations 2011" on page 2 for the most recent statistics.)
The United States continues to lead all other nations in the rate of incarceration of individuals per 100,000 of the general population. The 2011 incarceration rate of 716 individuals per 100,000 residents is 5 to 10 times higher than that of Canada and most of the industrialized democracies of Western Europe. (See Figure 3.)
The above article is based in part on the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Correctional Populations in the United States, 2011," NJC 239972; "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2011," NJC 239686; and "Prisoners in 2011," NCJ 239808.