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June 3, 2010

BJS reports first decline in jail population in modern mass incarceration era

This new press release from DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics provides an interesting report on a new accounting of our nation's jail populations:

As of midyear 2009, 767,620 inmates were held in custody of county and city jail authorities, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today.  During the 12-month period ending June 30, 2009, the local jail population declined by 2.3 percent (down 17,936 inmates).  This is the first decline in the U.S. jail population since BJS implemented the Annual Survey of Jails in 1982.  The number of male inmates decreased 1.7 percent (down nearly 12,000) and female inmates decreased 6 percent (down more than 5,900).

Local jails, unlike prisons, are confinement facilities usually operated by a local law enforcement agency. In 2009 approximately 62 percent of jail inmates were unconvicted and being held pending arraignment, awaiting trial, or conviction.  The remainder (38 percent) had been convicted and awaiting sentencing, had been sentenced to serve time in jail or were awaiting transfer to serve time in state or federal prisons.  At midyear 2009, jail authorities were also responsible for supervising more than 70,000 offenders outside of the jail facilities, including 11,800 under electronic monitoring, 11,200 in weekend programs, 17,700 in community service programs, and 12,400 in other pretrial release programs....

Local jails admitted an estimated 12.8 million persons during the 12 months ending June 30, 2009, or about 17 times the size of the midyear inmate population (767,620 inmates). More than four in 10 (42 percent) admissions during the last week of June 2009 were to the largest jail jurisdictions with an average daily jail population of 1,000 or more inmates. Small jail jurisdictions holding fewer than 50 inmates accounted for 6.0 percent of all jail admissions, but they admitted about 35 times the size of their inmate population.

The report, Jail Inmates at Midyear 2009 – Statistical Tables (NCJ 230122), was written by BJS statistician Todd Minton [and] can be found at this link.

It seems safe to speculate that this historic decrease in US jail populations is a result, in part, of tighter local budgets impacting who can be kept in jail for how long and the continuing decrease in crime rates in recent years. 

June 3, 2010 at 01:27 PM | Permalink


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