NRRC Facts & Trends

  • Federal and state corrections facilities held over 1.6 million prisoners at the end of 2010 — approximately one of every 201 U.S. residents.1
  • At least 95 percent of state prisoners will be released back to their communities at some point.2
  • During 2010, 708,677 sentenced prisoners were released from state and federal prisons, an increase of nearly 20 percent from 2000.3
  • Approximately 9 million individuals are released from jail each year.4
  • Nearly 4.9 million individuals were on probation or parole at the end of 2010.5
  • In a study that looked at recidivism in over 40 states, more than four in 10 offenders returned to state prison within three years of their release.6
  • In 2009, parole violators accounted for 33.1 percent of all prison admissions, 35.2 percent of state admissions, and 8.2 percent of federal admissions.7
  • Twenty-three percent of adults exiting parole in 2010 – 127,918 individuals – returned to prison as a result of violating their terms of supervision, and 9 percent of adults exiting parole in 2010 - 49,334 individuals - returned to prison as a result of a new conviction.8

Mental Health

  • The incidence of serious mental illnesses is two to four times higher among prisoners than it is in the general population.9
  • 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.10

Substance Abuse

  • Three quarters of those returning from prison have a history of substance use disorders. Over 70 percent of prisoners with serious mental illnesses also have a substance use disorder.11
  • In 2004, 53 percent of state and 45 percent of federal prisoners met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for drug abuse or dependence. Nearly a third of state and a quarter of federal prisoners committed their offense under the influence of drugs. Among state prisoners who were dependent on or abusing drugs, 53 percent had at least three prior sentences to probation or incarceration, compared to 32 percent of other inmates. At the time of their arrest, drug dependent or abusing state prisoners (48 percent) were also more likely than other inmates (37 percent) to have been on probation or parole supervision.12
  • In 2002, 68 percent of jail inmates met DSM criteria for drug abuse or dependence. Half of all convicted jail inmates were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of offense. Inmates who met substance dependence/abuse criteria were twice as likely as other inmates to have three or more prior probation or incarceration sentences.13
  • Only 7 percent to 17 percent of prisoners who meet DSM criteria for alcohol/drug dependence or abuse receive treatment in jail or prison.14

Housing & Homelessness

  • More than 10 percent of those entering prisons and jails are homeless in the months before their incarceration. For those with mental illness, the rates are even higher — about 20 percent. Released prisoners with a history of shelter use were almost five times as likely to have a post-release shelter stay.15
  • According to a qualitative study by the Vera Institute of Justice, people released from prison and jail to parole who entered homeless shelters in New York City were seven times more likely to abscond during the first month after release than those who had some form of housing.16


  • The prevalence of chronic illnesses and communicable diseases is far greater among people in jails and prisons.17
  • In 1997, individuals released from prison or jail accounted for nearly one-quarter of all people living with HIV or AIDS, almost one-third of those diagnosed with hepatitis C, and more than one-third of those diagnosed with tuberculosis.18
  • At yearend 2008, 1.5% (20,231) of male inmates and 1.9% (1,913) of female inmates held in state or federal prisons were HIV positive or had confirmed AIDS. Confirmed AIDS cases accounted for nearly a quarter (23%) of all HIV/AIDS cases in state and federal prison. In 2007, the most recent year for which general population data are available, the overall rate of estimated confirmed AIDS among the state and federal prison population (0.43%) was 2.5 times the rate in the general population (0.17%).19

Education & Employment

  • Two in five prison and jail inmates lack a high school diploma or its equivalent.20
  • Employment rates and earnings histories of people in prisons and jails are often low before incarceration as a result of limited education experiences, low skill levels, and the prevalence of physical and mental health problems; incarceration only exacerbates these challenges.21
  • A large, three-state recidivism study found that less than half of released prisoners had secured a job upon their return to the community.22


  • An estimated 809,800 prisoners of the 1,518,535 held in the nation’s prisons at midyear 2007 were parents of children under age 18. Parents held in the nation’s prisons — 52 percent of state inmates and 63 percent of federal inmates — reported having an estimated 1,706,600 minor children, accounting for 2.3 percent of the U.S. resident population under age 18.23
  • Since 1991, the number of children with a mother in prison has more than doubled, up 131 percent. The number of children with a father in prison has grown by 77 percent.24
  • Twenty-two percent of the children of state inmates and 16 percent of the children of federal inmates were age 4 or younger. For both state (53 percent) and federal (50 percent) inmates, about half their children were age 9 or younger.25

Women and Reentry

  • At the end of 2009, federal and state correctional facilities held 113,462 women, and increase of 22% since 2000.26
  • At least 712,000 women were on probation and 103,000 women were on parole at yearend 2010.27
  • According to an analysis of recidivism data from 15 states, 58% of women released from state prison in 1994 were rearrested, 38% were reconvicted, and 30% returned to prison within three years of release.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. In 2008, 53.8% of sentenced male prisoners were convicted for violent offenses, compared to 35.6% of sentenced women prisoners. 29% of women were convicted of property crimes, compared to 17.7% of men. 26.9% of women prisoners were convicted of drug offenses, compared to 17.8% of men.29

  1. Guerino, P.M., P.M. Harrison, and W. Sabol. Prisoners in 2010. NCJ 236096. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011.
  2. Hughes, T. & D.J. Wilson. Reentry Trends in the United States. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2002.
  3. Guerino, Harrison, & Sabol.
  4. Beck, A.J. The Importance of Successful Reentry to Jail Population Growth. Presented at the Urban Institute's Jail Reentry Roundtable, June 27, 2006.
  5. Glaze, L.E. & T.P. Bonczar. Probation and Parole in the United States, 2010. NCJ 231674. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011.
  6. Pew Center on the States, State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons (Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, April 2011).
  7. Sabol & West.
  8. Glaze & Bonczar.
  9. Hammett, T., C. Roberts, & S. Kennedy. "Health-Related Issues in Prisoner Reentry." Crime & Delinquency 47, no. 3 (2001): 390-409.
  10. Steadman, H.J., F. Osher, P.C. Robbins, B. Case, & S. Samuels. "Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness Among Jail Inmates." Psychiatric Services 60 (2009): 761–65.
  11. Hammett, Roberts, & Kennedy.
  12. Mumola, C.J. & J.C. Karberg. Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004. NCJ 213530. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006.
  13. Karberg, J.C. & D.J. James. Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002. NCJ 209588. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005.
  14. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Treating Offenders with Drug Problems: Integrating Public Health and Public Safety. Bethesda, MD: Author, 2009.
  15. Metraux, S. & D.P. Culhane. "Homeless Shelter Use and Reincarceration Following Prison Release: Assessing the Risk." Criminology & Public Policy 3, no. 2 (2004): 201-22.
  16. Metraux & Culhane; David Michaels et al., "Homelessness and indicators of mental illness among inmates in New York City's correctional system." Hospital and Community Psychiatry 43 (2002): 150-55.
  17. 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 Correction Health Care, 2002.
  18. Hammett, Roberts, & Kennedy.
  19. Maruschak, L.M. & R. Beavers. HIV in Prisons, 2007-08. NCJ 228307. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009.
  20. Harlow, C.W. Education and Correctional Populations. NCJ 195670. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003.
  21. Holzer, H., S. Raphael, & M. Stoll. Employment Barriers Facing Ex-Offenders. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 2003.
  22. Uggen, C. & J. Staff, "Work as a Turning Point for Criminal Offenders," in J.L. Krienert & M.S. Fleisher (eds.), Crime & Employment: Critical Issues in Crime Reduction for Corrections. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004.
  23. Glaze, L.E. & L.M. Maruschak. Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children. NCJ 222984. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008.
  24. Glaze & Maruschak.
  25. Glaze & Maruschak.
  26. Sabol & West.
  27. Glaze & Bonczar.
  28. Deschenes, E.P., B. Owen, & J. Crow. Recidivism Among Female Prisoners: Secondary Analysis of the 1994 BJS Recidivism Data Set. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 2007.
  29. Sabol & West.