Approximately 6.9 million people were under correctional supervision in the U.S. in 2012, including prison, jail, probation and parole – a decrease of 51,000 from the previous year. This means that about 1 in 35 adults were under some form of correctional supervision, or 2.9% of the adult U.S. population.
A modest decline in the number of people held in state prisons marked the fourth year in a row that the prisoner population had dropped, with the largest single decrease occurring due to a reduction in California’s prison system pursuant to court-ordered reforms. As a result of the California Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, that state had 28,700 fewer prisoners in 2012 than it did the year before – which accounted for more than half the drop in the national correctional population.
Regardless, the two Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, released in December 2013, highlighted America’s continued emphasis on mass incarceration – finding that 2.2 million people were held in prisons and jails, 3.94 million were on probation and around 851,200 were on parole.
Those figures should be of interest to lawmakers as they try to understand why their correctional budgets remain so high.
Further, approximately 128,300 people were incarcerated in privately-operated state and federal facilities nationwide, the federal prison population increased in 2012 to almost 217,000 prisoners, and the total jail population increased slightly.
On a positive note, the probation and parole report found that 58% of parolees successfully completed their terms of parole or were discharged early in 2012, while 68% of probationers completed their terms of supervision or were discharged early.
In summary, both reports show that while the number of people incarcerated and under parole or probation supervision has dropped over the past several years, the rate of decline has slowed and the total correctional population remains exceedingly high – indicating there is still much work to be done to reduce the human costs and negative impact of our nation’s criminal justice system.
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