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U.S. Department of Justice Releases Statistics on Jail Prisoners at Midyear 2010

by Matt Clarke

In April 2011, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a statistical report on the nation’s city and county jail population for the twelve-month period ending June 30, 2010. The report noted this was only the second year in which the jail population had decreased since the BJS began keeping statistics in 1982. The other year of decline occurred in 2008-2009.

On June 30, 2010 there were 748,728 prisoners held in U.S. jails, which was 18,706 (2.4%) fewer compared to the previous year. The vast majority of jail prisoners were male (87.7%). Whites accounted for 44.3%, while Blacks were 37.8% and Hispanics 15.8% of the nation’s jail population.

Almost 39% of prisoners held in city and county jails had already been convicted, while 0.8% were juveniles being held as adults and 0.3% were juveniles awaiting transfer to a juvenile facility.

The report provides a break-down of jails according to the size of their average daily population (ADP). During the reporting period, the largest jails, those with an ADP exceeding 1,000, experienced a total ADP decline of 18,187 prisoners. That decline was partially offset by total ADP increases of 2,471 for jails with an ADP between 100 and 249 prisoners, and 760 for jails with an ADP under 50 prisoners.

Six large jail systems accounted for 46% of the decrease in the overall jail population. Los Angeles County, California had the largest ADP decline, with 3,007 prisoners. The ADP also dropped by 1,196 in Maricopa County, Arizona; by 1,143 in Orange County, Florida; by 1,111 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; by 1,105 in Fresno County, California; and by 1,096 in Harris County, Texas.

The total estimated rated capacity of all jails in the U.S. was 866,974 as of June 30, 2010. This was an increase of 17,079 beds (2.0%) over midyear 2009. At 86.4%, the percentage of occupied capacity was the lowest since 1984. The decline was solely in jails with an ADP of 50 or more; the occupied capacity decreased from 91.5% at midyear 2009 to 87.4% at midyear 2010. Jails with an ADP under 50 experienced a slight increase in occupied capacity from 62.2% at midyear 2009 to 63.3% at midyear 2010. On an average day, the nation’s jails operated at around 86% of rated capacity; on crowded days the occupancy rate increased to about 91%.

During the twelve-month reporting period, city and county jails admitted 12.9 million people; 39% of the admissions in the last week of June 2010 were to jails with an ADP exceeding 1,000. Jails with less than 50 prisoners on average ac-counted for 6.3% of the admissions. The smallest jails had the highest prisoner turnover rate (136.7%). The turnover rate at the largest jails was only 51.5%.

The U.S. jail incarceration rate at midyear 2010 was 242 prisoners per 100,000 population, the lowest since 2003. However, that rate is still very high compared to other advanced nations, so the United States’ title of being the world’s leading incarcerator remains unchallenged.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Jail Inmates at Midyear 2010 – Statistical Tables,” (NCJ 233431, April 2011), available online at

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