Giving Compass' Take:
- Here are ten statistics about the mass incarceration system in the United States that demonstrate the scale and impact of the criminal justice system.
- One of the research statistics found that every state locks up Black people at a higher rate than white people. What policy shifts need to happen to move racial equity forward in the criminal justice system?
- Learn more about mass incarceration and what donors can do.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
The United States’ reliance on incarceration outpaces most of the globe: every single state incarcerates more people per capita than virtually any independent democracy on Earth. But the sheer magnitude and impact of a system so large can be hard to fully comprehend. We looked back over some of the best criminal legal system research and chose these ten statistics as some of the most handy for advocates, policymakers, and journalists working to help the public appreciate just how far-reaching mass incarceration is in this country.
A note on our sources: All of the following statistics come from different sources and have been calculated using different methodologies, and are not necessarily compatible with one another. In addition, some of these statistics have been calculated by the Prison Policy Initiative, while others are from academic research and other organizations’ work in the field.
- On any given day, about 2 million people in the U.S. are locked up in jails, prisons, and other spaces of confinement.
- People cycle through local jails more than 7 million times each year.
- 3.7 million people are held under community supervision such as probation and parole — more people than are held in jails and prisons combined.
- Police threaten or use force against more than 1 million people each year, disproportionately against Black and Latinx people.
- More than 79 million people in the U.S. have a criminal record, creating barriers to housing, jobs, healthcare, and food assistance, among many other collateral consequences.
- Half of all Americans have an immediate family member who has been incarcerated. 1 in 5 people have had a parent incarcerated and 2.6 million children have a parent who is currently incarcerated.
- Incarcerated people and their families spend upwards of $2.9 billion per year on phone calls and commissary, and annually, people owe more than $50 billion in court-ordered fines and fees.
- The median felony bail amount ($10,000) represents eight months of income for the typical detained defendant.
- Every state locks up Black people at a higher rate than white people. On average, Black people are imprisoned at rates six times higher than those of white people.
- 80% of women in jails and 58% of women in prisons are mothers, and most are the primary or sole caretakers of young children.
Read the full article about statistics on mass incarceration by Emily Widra at Prison Policy Initiative.