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NRRC Facts & Trends

  • Federal, state, and local corrections facilities held nearly 2.2 million people at the end of 2015.1 An additional 4.7 million people were on probation or parole.2
  • At the end of 2015, the number of people in U.S. federal and state prisons was its lowest since 2005.3
  • At least 95 percent of people incarcerated in state prisons will be released back to their communities at some point.4
  • At least 95 percent of people incarcerated in state prisons will be released back to their communities at some point.
  • During 2015, 641,100 people who had been sentenced to state and federal prison were released to their communities.5
  • Approximately 9 million people are released from jail each year.6
  • In a study that followed 404,638 people released from state prisons in 30 states in 2005, 67.8 percent were arrested within 3 years of release, and 76.6 percent within 5 years of release.7
  • The Bureau of Prisons admitted 4,000 fewer people to federal prisons in 2015, an 8-percent decrease from 2014.8 

Youth

  • More than 53,000 youth were confined in juvenile detention and correctional facilities in 2013—a 55-percent decrease since 1997.9 The overwhelming majority of youth in the juvenile justice system live at home and are supervised in the community.10
  • In 2012, more than 100,000 youth and young adults were released from secure and non-secure facilities to the supervision of state and local probation and parole agencies, and an additional 260,000 juveniles were adjudicated directly to community supervision.11
  • Recidivism rates are often reported at 50 percent or higher for youth released from secure facilities.
  • Recidivism rates are often reported at 50 percent or higher for youth released from secure facilities, and as high as 70 percent for youth released from residential placement facilities within two years of their release.12
  • Youth in the juvenile justice system often have histories of abuse or neglect. A study in King County, Washington found that 67 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system also had some type of child welfare involvement; another study of youth exiting juvenile correctional facilities in Illinois found similar rates—65 percent of the youth had been involved in the child welfare system prior to their incarceration.13

Education & Employment

  • Only about half of incarcerated adults have a high school degree or its equivalent.14
  • Youth in the juvenile justice system are significantly more likely than other youth to be suspended or expelled, have academic skills well below their grade level, possess a learning or developmental disability, and drop out of school. Enrollment in school and academic achievement is associated with lower rates of reoffending and better outcomes into adulthood.15
  • Employment rates and earning histories of people in prison and jail are often low before incarceration as a result of limited education, low job skill levels, and the prevalence of physical and mental health problems; incarceration only exacerbates these challenges.16
  • A three-state recidivism study conducted from 2001 to 2006 found that less than half of people released from prison had secured a job upon their return to the community.17

Health and Behavioral Health

  • People in the criminal justice system experience chronic health conditions, infectious diseases, substance use disorders, and mental illnesses at much higher rates than the general population.18
  • In 2005, more than half of all people incarcerated in prisons and jails had a mental illness: 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of jail inmates. Of those who had a mental illness, about three-quarters also had a co-occurring substance use disorder.19
  • In a study of more than 20,000 adults entering five local jails, researchers documented serious mental illnesses in 14.5 percent of the men and 31 percent of the women, which taken together, comprises 16.9 percent of those studied—rates in excess of three to six times those found in the general population.20
  • Approximately 60 to 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice detention, correctional, or community-based facilities have a diagnosable mental illness and over 27 percent have a serious mental illness that impairs his or her ability to function. Approximately 25 to 50 percent have substance use disorders, often co-occurring with mental illnesses at rates of 60 percent or more.21

Housing & Homelessness

  • In a 2008 study of the U.S. jail population in 2002, 15.3 percent had been homeless anytime the year before incarceration—up to 11.3 times the estimate for the general adult population. For those with a mental illness, the rates of homelessness are even higher—about 20 percent.23
  • About 10 percent of people entering state and federal prison had recently been homeless, and at least the same percentage of those who leave prison are homeless for some period of time after release.24

Families

  • Parents with minor children make up 54 percent of people incarcerated in prisons and jails, or 1.2 million people: more than 120,000 mothers and 1.1 million fathers.25
  • An estimated 2.7 million children in the U.S. have a parent in prison or jail.
  • Between 1991 and 2007, the number of children with a parent in state or federal prison grew 80 percent. Today, an estimated 2.7 million children in the U.S. have a parent in prison or jail—that is 1 in every 28 children (3.6 percent of all children).26

Women and Reentry

  • At the end of 2015, federal and state correctional facilities held 113,028 women, which represented more than 7 percent of the total prison population.27
  • Nearly 25 percent of people on probation were female at the end of 2015.28
  • Compared to men, women are more likely to be incarcerated for drug and property crimes, and less likely to be incarcerated for violent crime.29
  • In a 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, incarcerated females were more likely than incarcerated males to have had a history of diagnosis or treatment for a mental illness, or to have shown symptoms of a mental illness.30

Collateral Consequences

  • As of 2016, an estimated 6.1 million people are prohibited from voting due to laws restricting voting rights for those convicted of felony-level crimes.31
  • Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), 13 states fully prohibit anyone with a drug-related conviction from receiving public assistance under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program; 23 other states maintain a partial ban.32
  • People with a felony criminal record are restricted from jury service in 47 states.33
  • The American Bar Association has documented 27,254 state occupational licensing restrictions nationwide for people with a criminal record.34

Footnotes:

1 Danielle Kaeble and Lauren Glaze, Correctional Populations in the United States, 2015 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016), available at bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus15.pdf.

2 Danielle Kaeble and Thomas P. Bonczar, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016), available at bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ppus15.pdf.

3 E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2015 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016), available at bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p15.pdf.

4 Timothy Hughes and Doris James Wilson, Reentry Trends in the United States (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2002), available at bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/reentry.pdf.

5 E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2015.

6 Allen J. Beck, “The Importance of Successful Reentry to Jail Population Growth” (paper presented at the Urban Institute's Jail Reentry Roundtable, June 27, 2006), available at urban.org/sites/default/files/beck.ppt.

7 Matthew R. Durose, Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014), available at bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf.

8 E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2015.

9 Melissa Sickmund, T.J. Sladky, Wei Kang, and Charles Puzzanchera, “Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement: 1997–2013,” Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, accessed March 28, 2017, ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezacjrp/.

10 Melissa Sickmund, T.J. Sladky, and Wei Kang, “Easy Access to Juvenile Court Statistics: 1985-2013,” Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, accessed April 11, 2017, ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezajcs/.

11 Melissa Sickmund and Charles Puzzanchera, eds., Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report (Pittsburgh: National Center for Juvenile Justice, 2014).

12 Justice Policy Institute, The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense (Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute, 2009), available at justicepolicy.org/images/upload/09_05_REP_CostsOfConfinement_JJ_PS.pdf.

13 Denise Herz et al., Addressing the Needs of Multi-System Youth: Strengthening the Connection Between Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice (Washington, DC: Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University and the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, 2012), available at gcjjr.dcwdhost.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MultiSystemYouth_March2012.pdf; Denise C. Herz, Miriam Krinsky, and Joseph P. Ryan, “Improving System Responses to Crossover Youth: The Role of Research and Practice Partnerships,” The Link: Connecting Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare 5.1 (2006), available at cwla.org/programs/juvenilejustice/thelink2006summer.pdf.

14 Caroline Wolf Harlow, Education and Correctional Populations (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003), available at bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/ecp.pdf.

15 Antonis Katsiyannis, Joseph Benedict Ryan, Dalun Zhang, and Anastasia Spann, “Juvenile Delinquency and Recidivism: The Impact of Academic Achievement,” Reading and Writing Quarterly 24.2 (2008), available at researchgate.net/publication/271929587_Juvenile_Delinquency_and_Recidivism_The_Impact_of_Academic_Achievement.

16 Harry J. Holzer, Steven Raphael, and Michael A. Stoll, Employment Barriers Facing Ex-Offenders, (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 2003), available at urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/59416/410855-Employment-Barriers-Facing-Ex-Offenders.PDF.

17 Christy Visher, Sara Debus, & Jennifer Yahner, Employment After Prison: A Longitudinal Study of Releasees in Three States, (Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2008), available at urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32106/411778-Employment-after-Prison-A-Longitudinal-Study-of-Releasees-in-Three-States.PDF.

18 National Commission on Correctional Health Care, The Health Status of Soon-To-Be-Released Prisoners: A Report to Congress, vol. 1, (Chicago: National Commission on Correctional Health Care, 2002), available at ncchc.org/filebin/Health_Status_vol_1.pdf.

David Cloud, On Life Support: Public Health in the Age of Mass Incarceration (New York, NY: Vera Institute of Justice, 2014), available at vera.org/publications/on-life-support-public-health-in-the-age-of-mass-incarceration.

19 Doris J. James and Lauren E. Glaze, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006), available at bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mhppji.pdf.

20 Hank J. Steadman, Fred Osher, Pamela Clark Robbins, Brian Case, and Steven Samuels. "Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness Among Jail Inmates," Psychiatric Services 60 (2009): 761–65, available at csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Prevalence-of-Serious-Mental-Illness-among-Jail-Inmates.pdf.

21 Kathleen R. Skowyra and Joseph J. Cocozza, Blueprint for Change: A Comprehensive Model for the Identification and Treatment of Youth with Mental Health Needs in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System (Washington, DC: National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, PRA Associates, Inc., 2006), available at ncmhjj.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Blueprint.pdf.

23 Greg A. Greenberg and Robert A. Rosenheck, “Jail Incarceration, Homelessness, and Mental Health: A National Study,Psychiatry Services (2008), available at ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/ps.2008.59.2.170.

24 Caterina Gouvis Roman and Jeremy Travis, “Where Will I Sleep Tomorrow: Housing Homelessness, and the Returning Prisoner,” Housing Policy Debate 17.2 (2006), available at tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10511482.2006.9521574?journalCode=rhpd20.

25 The Pew Charitable Trusts, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility, (Washington, D.C., The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010), available at pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf.

26 The Pew Charitable Trusts, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility.

27 E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2015.

28 Danielle Kaeble & Thomas P. Bonczar, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015.

29 E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2015.

30 Doris J. James and Lauren E. Glaze, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates.

31 Christopher Uggen, Ryan Larson, and Sarah Shannon, 6 million lost voters: State-level estimates of felony disenfranchisement (Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project, 2016), available at sentencingproject.org/publications/6-million-lost-voters-state-level-estimates-felony-disenfranchisement-2016/

32 Rebecca Beitsch, “States Rethink Restrictions on Food Stamps, Welfare for Drug Felons,” Stateline, July 30, 2015, accessed March 3, 2017, pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/07/30/states-rethink-restrictions-on-food-stamps-welfare-for-drug-felons.

33 “50-State Comparison Loss and Restoration of Civil Rights & Firearms Privileges,” prepared by Margaret Love for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, last modified October 2016, nacdl.org/rightsrestoration.

34 Margaret Colgate Love, Jenny Roberts, and Cecelia Klingele, Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Law, Policy and Practice (New York: Thomson West, 2013).