Population Demographics

This information sheet offers a number of quick facts about Native American offenders in the United States.

Early research on the effects of prison concluded that prisoner rehabilitation programmes do not work (Martinson 1974). This research was influential in rehabilitation gradually taking a back seat in favour of prison policies emphasising punishment and incapacitation. Subsequent scholars questioned the evidence base for this conclusion (Cullen 2005), but as Nagin et at. (2009) summarise, “Remarkably little is known about the effects of imprisonment on reoffending. The existing research is limited in size, in quality, [and] in its insights into why a prison term might be criminogenic or preventative.”

Recent research from The Pew Charitable Trusts found that about 4.5 million people in the United States are on community supervision as of 2016. Probation and parole provide a measure of accountability while allowing those who would otherwise have been incarcerated or have already served a term behind bars to meet their obligations to their families, communities, and victims.

By yearend 2017, 1.4 million people were imprisoned in the United States, a decline of 7% since the prison population reached its peak level in 2009. This follows a nearly 700% growth in the prison population between 1972 and 2009.

The overall pace of decarceration has varied considerably across states, but has been modest overall. Thirty-nine states and the federal government had downsized their prisons by 2017. Five states—Alaska, New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York—reduced their prison populations by over 30% since reaching their peak levels. But among the 39 states that reduced levels of imprisonment, 14 states downsized their prisons by less than 5%. Eleven states, led by Arkansas, had their highest ever prison populations in 2017.

On any given day, over 48,000 youth in the United States are confined in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile justice or criminal justice involvement. Most are held in restrictive, correctional-style facilities, and thousands are held without even having had a trial. But even these high figures represent astonishing progress: Since 2000, the number of youth in confinement has fallen by 60%, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

What explains these remarkable changes? How are the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems different, and how are they similar? Perhaps most importantly, can those working to reduce the number of adults behind bars learn any lessons from the progress made in reducing youth confinement?

Can it really be true that most people in jail are being held before trial? And how much of mass incarceration is a result of the war on drugs? These questions are harder to answer than you might think, because our country’s systems of confinement are so fragmented. The various government agencies involved in the justice system collect a lot of critical data, but it is not designed to help policymakers or the public understand what’s going on. As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build, however, it’s more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture.

This report highlights trends in federal arrests and prosecutions by the country of citizenship of persons processed through the federal criminal justice system. It shows changes from 1998 through 2018. The report provides statistics on law enforcement and prosecutions along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as in non-border areas. It shows the number of suspects arrested and prosecuted for both immigration and non-immigration offenses, including by their citizenship status. It details activities for all 94 federal judicial districts, while also separately detailing activities for the 5 districts along the U.S.-Mexico border. (See map on page 6.) The statistical findings in this report are based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP).

An estimated 6,613,500 persons were under the supervision of U.S. adult correctional systems on December 31, 2016 (figure 1). The adult correctional population consists of persons held in prisons and jails and persons on probation and parole. The correctional population decreased 0.9% from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016. From 2007 to 2016, the correctional population declined by an average of 1.2% annually, ranging from a decrease of 0.4% in 2008 to 2.1% in 2010. At year-end 2016, about 1 in 38 persons in the United States were under correctional supervision. This report summarizes data from several Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collections on populations supervised by adult correctional systems in the United States. (See Methodology.) 

This report presents selected findings from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ annual data collection on capital punishment. It includes statistics on the number of prisoners executed each year from 1977 through 2017, the number and race of prisoners under sentence of death at year-end 2017 by state, and the average elapsed time from sentence to execution by year from 1977 through 2017. BJS obtained data on prisoners under sentence of death from the department of corrections in each jurisdiction that authorized the death penalty as of December 31, 2017. The status of the death penalty was obtained from the office of the attorney general in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government.

An estimated 4,537,100 adults were under community supervision as of December 31, 2016 (year-end), a decline of 1.1% from 4,586,900 on January 1, 2016 (figure 1 and table 1).* An estimated one in 55 adults in the United States were under community supervision at year-end 2016. Persons on probation accounted for the majority (81%) of adults under community supervision. The decline observed in the adult community corrections population in 2016 was the result of a decrease in the probation population. The probation population declined 1.4%, from an estimated 3,725,600 offenders on January 1, 2016, to 3,673,100 at year-end 2016 (figure 2). The parole population continued to grow, increasing by 0.5%, from 870,500 persons at year-end 2015