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Jail Population Report

Like the prison population the nation's jail population has soared in recent years, overshadowed by prison crowding. According to a recent Department of Justice report, Jails and Jail Inmates 1993-94, the national jail population was at an all time record high of 490,442 detainees as of June 30, 1994. Jails operated by cities and counties house about one third of all prisoners in the US. In 1983 the nation's jails held 223,551 detainees. The number of jail prisoners per 100,000 adult US residents has increased from 130 in 1983 to 251 in 1994.

It is interesting to note that while the jail prisoner population increased by 106% the jail staff increased by 156%. The national jail population was at 97% of its rated capacity. Obviously this is misleading as some cities are massively overcrowded while small towns frequently have empty cells. Jails with a capacity of 1,000 or more prisoners were at 111% of capacity while those with less than a 50 prisoner capacity were at 67% of capacity. Whites made up 39% of the jail population; blacks made up 44%; Hispanics made up 15% and other groups made up the remaining 2%. For local jails the incarceration rate for blacks is six times that of whites. The total number of women jail prisoners was 48,879 in 1994.

One thing that stands out is that according to this report slightly more than 50% of all jail detainees are pretrial detainees who are unconvicted of any crime, too poor to post bail while the other half is convicted and either serving a sentence or awaiting transport to prison. Jails generally hold the unconvicted and those serving sentences of less than one year. Almost $10 billion a year is spent operating the nations jails, even though, when adjusted for inflation, the cost of keeping jail prisoners has decreased 11% since 1983. Anyone desiring a free copy of this report which has a lot more information should write: BJSC, P.O. Box 179, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0179.

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