New Pew Report: 1 in 31 U.S. Adults Are in Jail or Under Supervision

The Pew Center on the States and its Public Safety Performance Project have released a new report,One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections (Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 2009) (pdf). The findings:

Explosive growth in the number of people on probation or parole has propelled the population of the American corrections system to more than 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 U.S. adults, according to a report released today by the Pew Center on the States. The vast majority of these offenders live in the community, yet new data in the report finds that nearly 90 percent of state corrections dollars are spent on prisons.


One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections examines the scale and cost of prison, jail, probation and parole in each of the 50 states, and provides a blueprint for states to cut both crime and spending by reallocating prison expenses to fund stronger supervision of the large number of offenders in the community.

Some specifics:
  • One in 31 adults in America is in prison or jail, or on probation or parole. Twenty-five years ago, the rate was 1 in 77.
  • Overall, two-thirds of offenders are in the community, not behind bars. 1 in 45 adults is on probation or parole and 1 in 100 is in prison or jail. The proportion of offenders behind bars versus in the community has changed very little over the past 25 years, despite the addition of 1.1 million prison beds.
  • Correctional control rates are highly concentrated by race and geography: 1 in 11 black adults (9.2 percent) versus 1 in 27 Hispanic adults (3.7 percent) and 1 in 45 white adults (2.2 percent); 1 in 18 men (5.5 percent) versus 1 in 89 women (1.1 percent). The rates can be extremely high in certain neighborhoods. In one block-group of Detroit’s East Side, for example, 1 in 7 adult men (14.3 percent) is under correctional control.
  • Georgia, where 1 in 13 adults is behind bars or under community supervision, leads the top five states that also include Idaho, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio and the District of Columbia.

How much are we spending as America, Prison Nation?

The National Association of State Budget Officers estimates that states spent a record $51.7 billion on corrections in FY2008, or 1 in every 15 general fund dollars. Adding local, federal and other funding brings the national correctional spending total to $68 billion.

...The 34 states that were able to provide data reported spending as much as 22 times more per day to manage prison inmates than to supervise offenders in the community. The reported average inmate cost was $79 per day, or nearly $29,000 per year. The average cost of managing an offender in the community ranged from $3.42 per day for probationers to $7.47 per day for parolees, or about $1,250 to $2,750 a year.

What states should be doing to be smarter about crime?

  • Sort offenders by risk to public safety to determine appropriate levels of supervision;
  • Base intervention programs on sound research about what works to reduce recidivism;
  • Harness advances in supervision technology such as electronic monitoring and rapid-result alcohol and drug tests;
  • Impose swift and certain sanctions for offenders who break the rules of their release but who do not commit new crimes; and
  • Create incentives for offenders and supervision agencies to succeed, and monitor their performance.
< Holder Intervenes in Federal Death Penalty Trial in San Francisco | Monday Night Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    The impact on society is even greater when (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by ytterby on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 03:36:37 PM EST
    we include the number of individuals who have completed their parole/probation and are now on that list of people who must cringe when they fill out that job application and have to answer the question "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"

    I suspect (without hard data) that when we include the people who have completed their "obligation to the state" that we're incarcerating close to 10% of the population.

    Hopefully.... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 08:29:13 AM EST
    they have the sense my old man did and lie on their job applications.  I might not have eaten as a boy if my old man was honest.

    We don't want honesty...we want sneakyness.  This is apparent in so many ways.


    I tried that... (none / 0) (#21)
    by ytterby on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 07:08:33 AM EST
    didn't disclose a conviction on a resume, got 15 months for perjury

    I wonder what the number is (none / 0) (#18)
    by Jlvngstn on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 09:02:48 AM EST
    for those who have served supervision for a non felony offense?  My guess is we would be close to 1 in 12.......(full disclosure, I am in that group from many years ago)

    Re: "What states should be doing": (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 03:17:36 PM EST
    Pie in the sky?  

    Of course, they leave out the most logical (none / 0) (#2)
    by SeeEmDee on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 03:24:36 PM EST
    Occam's razor provides a solution that cuts too deep for some. Such as ending the War on Drugs, which supplied most of the 'offenders'.

    Odd how something that was not an 'offense' prior to 1914 became one when drugs were associated with minority groups?

    Kinda handy tool to use on people who were deemed by WASP-dominated society to be barely human and dangerously unstable. A tool which is still used today, even though its' racist origins have been lost to time.

    OK, not incarcerating, but "convictng" (none / 0) (#4)
    by ytterby on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 03:37:27 PM EST

    They're all framed! (none / 0) (#5)
    by dualdiagnosis on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:06:00 PM EST

    Mike Huckabee (none / 0) (#6)
    by MKS on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:08:10 PM EST
    noted on his television show yesterady the shocking statistics of how many people are incarcerated today versus in years past....

    He said we often lock up people "we're mad at rather than those we're afraid of."  If Huckabee understands that we lock up too many non-violent offenders, then there is a chance to offer more treatment, etc., in lieu of jail time.

    Good for the Huckster... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 08:17:46 AM EST
    he seems to take his Christianity seriously at least...Jesus would surely be appalled at how we do.

    Crazy ignorance (none / 0) (#7)
    by Orlando on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:13:07 PM EST
    Ignorance and uneducated people are mostly getting locked up... Orlando has its fair share of thugs..

    I wish it had some analysis (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jlvngstn on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:33:50 PM EST
    behind the NY numbers.  

    Freedom (none / 0) (#9)
    by bocajeff on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 04:58:50 PM EST
    All adults should be able to do whatever they want (and to whomever they want) as long as they don't hurt anyone else. That's freedom.

    Next problem please...

    The median length of confinement for (none / 0) (#10)
    by JSN on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 05:01:50 PM EST
    state prisons is about 18 months and a very rough estimate is that the median length of confinement for jail is between one and three weeks.

    Jails or more complicated than prisons because they have so many functions. Jail populations turnover rapidly about 50% of the jail population for large jails and 100% for small jails enter and leave each day. OTOH violators and pretrial detainees can be held from weeks to years in jail.

    The short median length of confinement for prisons is because we have many drug, property and public order offenders as well as parole and probation violators  revolving though the CJ system each year. The serious violent offenders tend to stay for years or until they die in prison.

    For a long time the voters have told their legislators that they want violent offenders and drug traffickers locked up for a long time and they got what they asked for. Now they want sex offenders locked up but they have lumped all sex offenders together a very serious and costly error.

    In 1955 we have almost twice as many persons locked up in state mental hospitals as we had in prison. Today we have twenty or more times as many prisoners with persistent mental illnesses as we have persons in state mental hospitals.

    This is not a simple problem that will be solved by reducing mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers.  

    Actually, (none / 0) (#11)
    by bocajeff on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 05:16:06 PM EST
    It is a simple problem. First, drugs should be legal therefore the prison population will lessen so violent offenders can be houses properly. Second, any medical problem (mental or addiction) can be addressed by health officials and not by prison authority.



    In CA, governor said: lets not keep (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 05:29:59 PM EST
    mentally ill people iin state mental health facilities.  Let's let them live on the streets.  Not a notable success.

    A little satire (none / 0) (#13)
    by joze46 on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 08:09:30 PM EST

    Here we have a report about millions of criminals from the PEW institute. Neatly categorized in column and rows judged accordingly to legislated rules in society. Who knows anything from murder armed robbery or rape to a simple doper joint caught tried and convicted. Many participating in the system of justice, bartering with a plea that is results of what is called a bargain. Plea deals to get exempted or reduced sentence, yet deliver someone else into the system. I say that with a giggle and a laugh. One must be carefully crafted in testimony not to forget casually or be condemned for perjury in a contextually expert prosecution that can instill a mind as committed criminal behavior, convincing a jury for a win, or be a probationer. Sheesh.

    With that said, that side of the spectrum of social justice hammers away, with the decision of a jury of fellow electorates. America on the other hand has a system of free lancers and profiteers that merrily funnel money from the Federal Reserve supplementing what we all consider mistakes but originally given as bargains in a housing boon, and security derivative market. Not one peep about who they are or create a column and row in a report to list millions of free market business MBA's, managers, clerks, CPA's, math people, financial analyst, insurance specialist, or brokers, government oversight people, long time politician's, and the that ever indulged media with the legion of journalists all very well may line up along side with the  similarities like the criminals that are caged,  but wonder freely partying at fine hotels eating fine food and enjoying fine entertainment at the expense of the electorate. The probationers of America's great new criminal insanity. A few more million added to the masses of a dysfunctional social sewer.

    Whats really funny is if we add those of the Middle East extremist and the hidden Mexican aliens that would really bump it up to Wild West insanity. About two hundred million. Sheezam Sargent, that's a whole lot; shut up Pile. LOL...

    What? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 07:53:27 AM EST

    The vast majority of these offenders live in the community, yet new data in the report finds that nearly 90 percent of state corrections dollars are spent on prisons.

    Parole and probation were supposed to be preferrable to prison because they are cheaper.  Now being cheaper is a problem.  This makes no sense.

    I simply refuse to believe... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 08:24:37 AM EST
    that 1 in 31 of us are bad eggs that need to be put through the ringer...the law must be the problem. Deep down we all know this.

    "Do you think that we want those laws to be observed? We want them broken. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power the government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."

    - Ayn Rand

    three percent?? (none / 0) (#19)
    by diogenes on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 10:59:01 AM EST
    Do you really have a hard time believing that three percent of us are bad eggs?  That in your sixth grade class not one kid would end up being a bad egg?  This includes "non-bad eggs" who do things like repeat DWI's and get on probation for that as well as those with antisocial personalities.
    Ayn Rand meant that we would ALL be criminals.  Three percent is hardly all.

    I do.... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 11:43:53 AM EST
    I'd put it closer to 1% bad eggs, totally unscientific guess of course.

    I think we could have a relatively safe, free, functioning society with a third of the prison/parole population we have now.

    3% is only those who are currently in a cage or some kind of supervised release...that doesn't include those put through the ringer with arrests, fines, court dates, deferred charges, community service, etc.