Population Demographics

From the end of 2017 to the end of 2018, the total prison population in the United States declined from 1,489,200 to 1,465,200, a decrease of 24,000 prisoners. Tis was a 1.6% decline in the prison population and marked the fourth consecutive annual decrease of at least 1%. Te combined federal and state imprisonment rate, based on sentenced prisoners (those sentenced to more than one year), fell 2.4% from 2017 to 2018, declining from 441 to 431 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents. Across a decade, the imprisonment rate—the proportion of U.S. residents who are in prison—fell 15%, from 506 sentenced prisoners in 2008 to 431 in 2018 per 100,000 U.S. residents (fgure 1).

County and city jails in the United States held 738,400 inmates at midyear 2018 (table 1), a decline of 6% from 785,500 inmates held in 2008. The midyear population remained relatively stable from 2011 to 2018. At midyear 2018, about one-third of jail inmates (248,500) were sentenced or awaiting sentencing on a conviction, while about two-thirds (490,000) were awaiting court action on a current charge or were held for other reasons. Over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2018, the rate of incarceration in local jails dropped by 12%, from 258 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents to 226 per 100,000 (fgure 1). During this period, the jail incarceration rate increased by 12% for whites and declined by about 30% for blacks (28%) and Hispanics (33%).

  • Millennials are projected to outnumber Baby Boomers next year.
  • A record number of Americans live in multigenerational households, part of a broader trend toward more shared living.
  • The institution of marriage continues to change.
  •  After decades of decline, motherhood and family size are ticking up in the U.S.
  • There are more than 250 million migrants worldwide.
  • New refugee arrivals are down in the U.S. and their religious composition has changed.
  • International arrivals to the U.S. have risen among some groups.

This report describes persons processed by the federal criminal justice system. Data are from the Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP). The FJSP collects, standardizes, and reports on administrative data received from six federal justice agencies: the U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, U.S. Sentencing Commission, and Federal Bureau of Prisons.

This report includes data on persons under sentence of death, persons executed, and the status of the death penalty at the state and federal level. Data on prisoners under sentence of death were obtained from the department of corrections in each jurisdiction that authorized the death penalty on December 31, 2016. Information on the status of death penalty statutes was obtained from the office of the Attorney General in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government.

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.)

County and city jails in the United States reported a total confned population of 745,200 inmates at midyear 2017. About 65% (482,000) of the confned inmates were awaiting court action on a current charge. The remaining 35% (263,200) were sentenced or convicted ofenders awaiting sentencing. The jail incarceration rate at midyear 2017 was 229 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, down from 259 per 100,000 at midyear 2007 and 237 per 100,000 at midyear 2012.

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. 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. The parole population continued to grow, increasing by 0.5%, from 870,500 persons at year-end 2015 to 874,800 at year-end 2016.

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. Meaningful criminal justice reform that reduces the massive scale of incarceration, however, requires that we start with the big picture.

With growing public attention to the problem of mass incarceration, people want to know about women’s experience with incarceration. How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? And why are they there? How is their experience different from men’s? While these are important questions, finding those answers requires not only disentangling the country’s decentralized and overlapping criminal justice systems, but also unearthing the frustratingly hard to find and often altogether missing data on gender.