U.S. Jail Population Declines for Third Year in a Row
Date:  04-26-2012

New report also reveals jails operating at their lowest capacity since 1984
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced that between June 2010 through June 2011 jails across the country have seen a 1.8 percent decline in the number of inmates held at such facilities. This is the third year in a row that jail populations have declined. Referring to the BJS report, Jail Inmates at Midyear 2011, Marc Maurer, the Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, stated that jails are reducing the number of prisoners at a rate far greater than state or federal prisons, adding, “The sustained decline in both prison and jail populations has produced no adverse effects on public safety. We now have the opportunity to free up resources for public safety initiatives that do not depend on record rates of incarceration.”

The Sentencing Project also reported that following growing concern over juveniles being exposed to violence and abuse when housed in adult facilities the number of juveniles sent to adult facilities declined by 23.4% from 2008 -2011.

Jail Inmates at Midyear 2011 reports:

  • In midyear 2011, the jail incarceration rate dropped to the lowest level since 2002. Jails confined 236 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents in June 2011, down from 238 inmates per 100,000 in June 2003.

  • The decline in confined population in the largest jails—those with an average daily population of more than 1,000 inmates—accounted for more than half (53 percent) of the total decline of 13,127 inmates that occurred during 2011. An overall decline was also observed in the jail jurisdictions with an average daily population of fewer than 1,000 inmates.

  • Jails were operating at 84 percent of their rated capacity at midyear 2011, the lowest percentage since 1984. The total rated capacity for all jails nationwide reached 877,302 beds at midyear 2011, up from 866,782 beds at midyear 2010, about a 1 percent increase in the number of beds.

  • At midyear 2011, about 61 percent of inmates were not convicted, but were in jail awaiting court action on a current charge—a rate unchanged since 2005. About 39 percent of inmates were sentenced offenders or convicted offenders awaiting sentencing.

  • During the 12 months ending midyear 2011, local jails admitted an estimated 11.8 million persons, down from 12.9 million persons admitted during the same period in 2010 and 13.6 million in 2008. The number of persons admitted in 2011 was about 16 times the size of the inmate population (735,601) at midyear 2011. Nearly four in 10 admissions during the last week of June 2011 were to the largest jail jurisdictions.
  • Small jail jurisdictions holding fewer than 50 inmates accounted for about seven percent of all jail admissions. However, the number of inmates admitted to these jails was about 32 times the size of their inmate population on June 30, 2011.

  • Jail authorities were also responsible for supervising 62,816 offenders outside of the jail facilities, including 11,950 under electronic monitoring, 11,369 in weekend programs, 11,680 in community service programs, and 10,464 in other pretrial release programs. An additional 17,353 offenders were also supervised through home detention without electronic monitoring, day reporting, treatment programs, and other unspecified programs.

    Source: The Sentencing Project and The Bureau of Justice Statistics