Prisoners in 2017

The United States prison population declined from 1,508,129 at the end of 2016 to 1,489,363 at the end of 2017, a decrease of 1.2%. During the same period, the number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of federal correctional authorities decreased by 6,100 (down 3%), and the number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of state correctional authorities fell by 12,600 (down 1%). The imprisonment rate for sentenced prisoners was the lowest since 1997, at 440 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents of all ages and 568 per 100,000 U.S. residents age 18 or older. (Counts of sentenced prisoners include those who have received a sentence of more than one year.)

Findings in this report are based on the National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) program, administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The program collects annual data from state departments of corrections (DOCs) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on prison capacity and prisoner counts, characteristics, admissions, and releases. This report is the ninety-second in a series that began in 1926. Forty-eight states and the BOP reported NPS data for 2017, while data for New Mexico and North Dakota were obtained from other sources or were imputed (see Methodology).


  • The imprisonment rate for sentenced prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction decreased 2.1% from 2016 to 2017 (from 450 to 440 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents) and 13% from 2007 to 2017 (from 506 to 440 per 100,000).
  • The number of prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction decreased by 18,700 (down 1.2%), from 1,508,100 at year-end 2016 to 1,489,400 at year-end 2017.
  • The federal prison population decreased by 6,100 prisoners from year-end 2016 to year-end 2017 (down 3%), accounting for one-third of the overall change in the U.S. prison population.
  • More than half (55%) of state prisoners were serving sentences for violent ofenses at year-end 2016, the most recent year for which data are available.
  • The number of state or federal prisoners held in private facilities decreased 5% from 2016 to 2017.
  • Non-citizens made up roughly the same portion of the U.S. prison population (7.6%) as of the total U.S. population (7.0%, per the U.S. Census Bureau).
  • The imprisonment rate of sentenced black adults declined by 4% from 2016 to 2017 and by 31% from 2007 to 2017.
  • Nearly half of federal prisoners were serving a sentence for a drug-trafcking ofense at fscal year-end 2017.
  • At year-end 2017, the imprisonment rate for sentenced black males (2,336 per 100,000 black male U.S. residents) was almost six times that of sentenced white males (397 per 100,000 white male U.S. residents).
  • At year-end 2016, an estimated 60% of Hispanics and blacks sentenced to serve more than one year in state prison had been convicted of and sentenced for a violent ofense, compared to 48% of white prisoners.