Press Releases archives

Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration

September 28, 2022

Today the Public Interest Law Center and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Pennsylvania, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Pennsylvania state prisons come from. The report also provides 10 detailed data tables — including neighborhood-specific data for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics, and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the 2021 Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s decision to address the practice of prison gerrymandering. Pennsylvania was the first state to address this problem through its redistricting commission. With this change, the Commonwealth — for the first time ever — counted most incarcerated people at their homes instead of in prison cells when drawing new legislative district lines.

The report shows:

  • Every single county — and every state legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison.
  • While Philadelphia County sends the most people to prison, the much smaller Venango County has the highest imprisonment rate of any county, at 452 per 100,000 residents.
  • There are dramatic differences in imprisonment rates within communities. For example, in Philadelphia, one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation, residents of the Nicetown neighborhood are more than fifty times as likely to be imprisoned than residents of the Center City-West neighborhood.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Pennsylvania state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract, and other areas.

The data show the cities with the highest state prison imprisonment rates are Chester (1,191 per 100,000 residents), Harrisburg (1,144 per 100,000 residents) and Uniontown (972 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, Bethel Park has the lowest imprisonment rate, at 21 people in state prison per 100,000 residents. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have imprisonment rates of 463 per 100,000 residents and 276 per 100,000 residents, respectively.

Map of incarceration by census tract in Pennsylvania

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy, and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Pennsylvania.

“Mass incarceration hurts every community in Pennsylvania, but hurts some communities more than others,” said Benjamin Geffen of the Public Interest Law Center and co-author of the report. “As state and local leaders rethink our approaches to criminal justice, they should use data about who is in state prisons to target investments in jobs, housing, education, and healthcare that will strengthen families and communities.”

The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

Pennsylvania is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration

September 15, 2022

Today the Prison Policy Initiative, along with Delaware advocates Kyra Hoffner and Jack Young released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Delaware, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Delaware state prisons come from. The report also provides six detailed data tables that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2010 law that requires that people in state prisons be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.

The report shows:

  • All three counties — and every state legislative district — are missing a portion of their population to incarceration in state prison.
  • Wilmington has the dubious distinction of having both the highest number of city residents incarcerated as well as the highest incarceration rate of any city in the state.
  • Mass incarceration is not just a problem impacting large cities. Many smaller towns are also hit hard. Laurel, for example, has an incarceration rate of 1,227 per 100,000 residents, while Blades has a rate of 924 per 100,000 residents.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Delaware state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, zip code, legislative district, and census tract.

The data show the cities with the highest incarceration rates are Wilmington (1,299 per 100,000 residents), Seaford (748 per 100,000 residents) and Dover (680 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, Newark has the lowest incarceration rate of any city, at 131 per 100,000 residents, nearly ten times lower than Wilmington, and nearly three times lower than the state rate of 380 per 100,000 residents.

Map showing incarceration rates by census tract in Delaware

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative and co-author of the report. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Delaware.

“This report provides the most precise picture ever of which communities are most impacted, and just as importantly, it shows where support and resources should be deployed to repair that harm,” said Kyra Hoffner, co-author of the report.

“Every person locked behind bars in Delaware represents a piece of the fabric of a community that is missing,” said Jack Young, co-author of the report. “This report and data provide critical guidance on where and how resources and support should be allocated.”

The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

Delaware is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


Report shows every community in California is harmed by mass incarceration

August 31, 2022

Today the Essie Justice Group and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in California, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in California state prisons come from. The report also provides 20 detailed data tables — including localized data for Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno and Santa Clara County — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2011 law that requires that people in prison be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.

The report shows:

  • Every single county — and every state legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison.
  • While no county sends as many people to prison as Los Angeles County, many of the state’s smaller counties, including Kings, Shasta, Tehama, and Yuba, have a far larger portion of their residents imprisoned.
  • Native reservation and trust land in California has an imprisonment rate of 534 per 100,000 people, nearly double the state average of 310 per 100,000.
  • There are dramatic differences in incarceration rates within communities, often along racial and economic lines. For example, in Los Angeles the 14 neighborhoods with the highest imprisonment rates are clustered in South Central Los Angeles, where 57% of residents are Latino, 38% are Black, and 2% are white. Meanwhile, the LA neighborhoods with the lowest imprisonment rates are mostly in the predominately white and wealthier Westside region.
  • The large number of adults extracted from a relatively small number of geographical areas seriously impacts the health and stability of the families and communities left behind. It specifically impacts women and gender non-conforming people, where 1 in 4 women and 1 in 2 Black women have an incarcerated loved one.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in California state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract and other areas.

The data show the counties with the highest state prison incarceration rates are Kings (666 per 100,000 residents), Shasta (663 per 100,000 residents) and Tehama (556 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, Marin County has the lowest prison incarceration rate, at 80 people in state prison per 100,000 residents, more than 8 times lower than Kings County.

Map showing incarceration rates by census tract in California

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in California.

“When someone is incarcerated, families and communities are destabilized and women-especially Black women, bear the burdens of mass incarceration through financial devastation and profound health implications. This report provides the most cutting-edge data we have to date to help us better understand how specific regions of the state are experiencing incarceration,” said Felicia Gomez, Senior Policy Associate at Essie Justice Group. “We now have an additional layer of analysis, that connected to the lived experiences of women with incarcerated loved ones, sheds light on which regions in California are sending the most people to prison and how that is impacting communities and their constituents. And just as importantly, it uplifts the urgent need for the state to close more prisons and make full investments into care and community safety.”

The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

California is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


Report shows communities in all corners of the state are harmed by mass incarceration

August 9, 2022

Today Silver State Voices, the ACLU of Nevada, and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Nevada, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Nevada state prisons come from. The report also provides fourteen detailed data tables — including data for city council wards in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Sparks, Henderson, and Reno, as well Native lands — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, journalists, academics and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2019 law that requires that people in prison be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.

The report shows:

  • Mass incarceration is a problem harming all corners of the state, with 99.9% of the state’s residents living in a county that is missing a portion of its population to imprisonment. Only Esmeralda County, with a population of 729 people, did not have any residents in state prison at the time the data was collected.
  • While Clark County sends the most people to prison — 5,957 for an imprisonment rate of 263 per 100,000 residents — the smaller Nye and White Pine Counties have significantly higher imprisonment rates; both are at 365 per 100,000 residents.
  • There are dramatic differences in incarceration rates within communities, often along racial and economic lines. For example, in Las Vegas, city council wards 3 and 5 have the highest imprisonment rates in the city, (553 per 100,000 residents and 685 per 100,000 residents, respectively) and highest poverty rates.
  • Some Native communities are hit particularly hard by mass incarceration, with South Fork Reservation, Ely Reservation, Carson Colony, and Battle Mountain Reservation reporting imprisonment rates that are more than four times higher than the state average.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Nevada state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract, and other areas.

The data show the cities with the highest state prison incarceration rates are Ely (482 per 100,000 residents), Las Vegas (330 per 100,000 residents) and Reno (316 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, Lovelock has the lowest imprisonment rate at 55 residents per 100,000 residents. The state imprisonment rate is 252 residents per 100,000 residents.

Map showing most people in Nevada state prisons are from Las Vegas, Reno, and North Las Vegas.

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Nevada.

“The work of our Nevadans Count coalition during the census and redistricting process was the precursor to this report,” said Emily Persaud-Zamora, Executive Director at Silver State Voices. “Our report provides a more precise picture of the nexus of systemic oppression and mass incarceration. Compounded with the other health disparities in the report, it shows our communities have never been voiceless; they have been muted. Through our rights restoration work, Silver State Voices is committed to amplifying and sustaining the message that BIPOC communities and those impacted by the criminal legal system can reclaim their political power.”

“Through the dissemination of this report, we hope to continue to bring light to the pervasiveness of inequity within the criminal legal system,” said ACLU of Nevada Policy Manager Lilith Baran. “Mass incarceration continues to undermine our democracy and the impact is far and wide.”

The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

Nevada is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration

August 3, 2022

Today, More Equitable Democracy and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Washington, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Washington state prisons come from. The report also provides eleven detailed data tables — including neighborhood-specific data for Seattle, Vancouver, Tacoma and Spokane — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2019 law that requires that people in prison be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.

The report shows:

  • Every single county — and every state legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison.
  • Many of the state’s smaller and midsized counties, including Grays Harbor, Cowlitz, Lewis, Yakima, and Asotin have some of the highest incarceration rates in the state, making clear that the notion that mass incarceration is a problem just impacting large urban areas is a myth.
  • There are dramatic differences in incarceration rates within communities. For example, in Spokane, residents of the West Central neighborhood are more than forty times as likely to be imprisoned than residents of nearby Balboa-South Indian Trail.
  • Some Native communities are hit particularly hard by mass incarceration, with Skokomish, and Squaxin Island Reservations reporting imprisonment rates over 1,000 per 100,000 residents, more than five times the state average.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Washington state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract and other areas.

The data show that while King County has the most imprisoned residents (3,072), it has one of the lowest county imprisonment rates in the state, with 135 imprisoned people per 100,000 residents. On the other hand, Grays Harbor County has the highest county rate in the state, with 470 people imprisoned per 100,000 residents. For context, the statewide imprisonment rate for Washington is 197 per 100,000 residents.

Map of incarceration rates by census tract.

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Washington.

“Mass incarceration harms each of us, but it doesn’t harm each of us equally. We’ve known for too long that poorer communities and communities of color are over-policed, over-incarcerated, and under-resourced,” said Colin Cole of More Equitable Democracy. “This data is a tool to help policymakers, advocates, and service providers address the damage that has been done and build stronger, healthier, and more secure communities.”

The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

Washington is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration

July 14, 2022

Today the New Virginia Majority and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Virginia, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Virginia state prisons and local jails come from. The report also provides ten detailed data tables — including neighborhood-specific data for Arlington, Norfolk and Richmond — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2020 law that requires that people in prison and jail be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.

The report shows:

  • Every single county — and every state legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration.
  • Many of the state’s least populous counties, including Buchanan, Brunswick, Lee, and Dickinson, have among the highest incarceration rates.
  • There are dramatic differences in incarceration rates within communities. For example, more than half of the people in prison or jail from Richmond come from just 22 of the city’s more than 140 neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have historically been victims of dramatic “redlining”.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Virginia state prisons and jails at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract and other areas.

The data show the counties with the highest state prison and local jail incarceration rates are Buchanan (1,246 per 100,000 residents), Brunswick (1,167 per 100,000 residents), Lee (1,155 per 100,000 residents), Dickenson (1,132 per 100,000 residents), and Tazewell (1,105 per 100,000 residents); more than 1% of the residents of each of these counties is behind bars. For comparison, Arlington County has the lowest prison incarceration rate, at 70 people in state prison per 100,000 residents.

Map of incarceration in Colorado census tracts

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Virginia.

“The damage caused by redlining in Richmond and throughout Virginia continues to reverberate to this very day,” said Kenneth Gilliam of the New Virginia Majority. “Considerable work remains to address the inequities that result in people of color disproportionately being locked behind bars. This report and data, though, offer a roadmap for where and how these investments should be made.”

The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

Virginia is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all other districts. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


Report shows mass incarceration impacts communities in all corners of the state but disproportionately impacts communities of color

July 7, 2022

Today the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Colorado, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in Colorado state prisons come from. The report also provides eleven detailed data tables — including local data for Denver, Aurora, and El Paso County — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics and others to analyze the impact of mass incarceration on various communities and provide a roadmap where greater investment in community development is needed to improve community wellbeing.

The data and report were made possible by the state’s landmark 2020 law ending prison gerrymandering. It requires state and local governments to count incarcerated people as residents of their home communities rather than their prison locations when drawing legislative districts.

The report shows:

  • Every Colorado legislative district — and nearly every county — is impacted where a portion of its population is incarcerated in state prisons, however the degree of that impact varies wildly when you drill down into the neighborhood level.
  • Two communities with large Hispanic, Latino, or Native American populations — Alamosa and Bent — have some of the highest imprisonment rates in the state.
  • There are dramatic differences in incarceration rates within communities. For example, in Denver, residents of the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood are 20 times more likely to be imprisoned than residents of nearby Washington Park West.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Colorado state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people in state prison up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract and other areas.

The counties with the most people in state prison at the time of the 2020 census are Denver (2,712), El Paso (2,378), and Adams (1,599).

Meanwhile, the data show the counties with the highest state prison incarceration rates are Alamosa (577 per 100,000 residents), Pueblo (472 per 100,000 residents) and Bent (465 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, San Juan and Mineral counties have the lowest prison incarceration rates, with no residents in prison.

Map of incarceration in Colorado census tracts

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in Colorado.

“This seminal report is both appalling and not surprising as over-policing and mass incarceration has targeted low-income communities and communities of color for generations,” said Christie Donner of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. “We aren’t facing a crisis of crime, we are facing a crisis of neglect and lack of investment in communities of color and we hope this report will mobilize impacted residents and their elected officials to embrace community development as a public safety strategy.”

The report is part of a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

Colorado is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to legislative districts in which prisons are located, at the expense of other districts. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a jurisdiction that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration

June 27, 2022

Today the Prison Policy Initiative and Justice Policy Institute released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in Maryland, that gives an in-depth look at where people in Maryland state prisons come from. The report also provides 9 detailed data tables — including neighborhood-specific data for Baltimore City and Montgomery County — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics, and others to do their own analysis of how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The report shows:

  • Every single county — and every legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison;
  • No city is harmed by mass incarceration as much as the city of Baltimore. It is home to 9% of the state’s residents, but 40% of people in its state prisons.
  • Smaller and traditionally under-resourced Eastern Shore communities are particularly hard hit by mass incarceration; and
  • The worst impacts of mass incarceration are often concentrated in specific neighborhoods that are already systematically under-resourced. For example, over a third of the people from the city of Baltimore in state prison come from just 10 of the cities 55 neighborhoods.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in Maryland state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract, and other areas.

The data show the counties with the highest state prison incarceration rates are Wicomico, Dorchester, and Somerset, all with incarceration rates greater than 500 people in state prison per 100,000 residents. For comparison, Montgomery County has the lowest prison incarceration rate, at 61 people in state prison per 100,000 residents, roughly 10 times lower than the highest counties.

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

A previous analysis from the Prison Policy Initiative and Justice Policy Institute showed a strong correlation between high rates of incarceration in Maryland and high unemployment rates, long commute times, low household incomes, decreased life expectancy, and other markers of low community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2010 law that requires that people in prison be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years. Maryland was the first state in the nation to end the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gave disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. Since then, more than a dozen states and 200 local governments have taken steps to end the practices. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.


June 22, 2022

A new report from the Prison Policy Initiative offers the most recent national data on incarcerated people’s health, and shows that U.S. state prisons are continuing to ignore the plight of people in their care. The report, Chronic Punishment: The unmet health needs of people in state prisons, examines the Bureau of Justice Statistics’s Survey of Prison Inmates and breaks down the prevalence of several chronic conditions in this country’s 1,566 state prisons. The report also takes a deep dive into the medical histories of people behind bars.

Key findings in Chronic Punishment include:

  • People in state prisons suffer disproportionately from asthma, hepatitis C, HIV, and substance use disorder.
  • Significant numbers of people in state prisons also suffer from illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, which are exacerbated behind bars.
  • Half (50%) of people in state prisons lacked health insurance upon the arrest that led to their incarceration, and those with insurance disproportionately received Medicaid, a sign that poverty, exclusion from the healthcare system, and incarceration overlap significantly in this country.
Health disparities in prison graph

Other standout findings in the report suggest that state prisons, nationally, are not treating medical problems among incarcerated people:

  • Four in 10 (43%) people in state prison report one or more diagnosed mental health conditions, and women’s rates are even higher. Yet only about one-fourth (26%) have received some sort of professional help for their mental health since entering prison.
  • 19% of people in state prisons report having gone without a single health-related visit since entering prison.
  • Existing research suggests that many people who go to prison die prematurely: Cancer is more deadly in prison than on the outside, and people recently released from prison have a higher risk of hospitalization and death from heart disease than the average person. In the first two weeks after release from prison, individuals face a risk of death that is more than 12 times higher than for non-incarcerated individuals.

The report, which includes 15 powerful data visualizations, analyzes how the typical individual in state prison lacked healthcare long before their incarceration and how prison doctors often diagnose problems that prisons lack the capacity to treat. The report takes a particularly close look at how incarcerated women fare medically, including a section about the treatment of people who are pregnant.

Chronic Punishment is the second installment in the Prison Policy Initiative’s analysis of the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates, a national dataset released last year that offers the most thorough and recent demographic picture of people behind bars in the U.S. This report follows the Prison Policy Initiative’s recent report Beyond the Count about the adverse life experiences of people behind bars. The data cannot be disaggregated by state.

The full report is available at: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/chronicpunishment.html


Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration

June 16, 2022

Today the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in New Jersey, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in New Jersey state prisons come from. The report also provides eight detailed data tables — including neighborhood-specific data for Newark and Jersey City — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being.

The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2020 law that requires that people in prison be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.

The report shows:

  • Every single county — and every state legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison.
  • Many of the state’s smallest counties, including Cumberland, Cape May and Salem, have among the highest incarceration rates in the Garden State.
  • There are dramatic differences in incarceration rates within communities. For example, in Newark, one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation, residents of the Belmont neighborhood are more than four times as likely to be imprisoned than residents of neighboring University Heights.

Data tables included in the report provide residence information for people in New Jersey state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering the clearest look ever at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration. They break down the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract and other areas.

The data show the counties with the highest state prison incarceration rates are Cumberland (444 per 100,000 residents), Atlantic (364 per 100,000 residents) and Essex (351 per 100,000 residents). For comparison, Hunterdon County has the lowest prison incarceration rate, at 28 people in state prison per 100,000 residents, which is nearly 16 times lower than Cumberland County.

“The nation’s 40-year failed experiment with mass incarceration harms each and every one of us. This analysis shows that while some communities are disproportionately impacted by this failed policy, nobody escapes the damage it causes,” said Emily Widra, Senior Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. “Our report is just the beginning. We’re making this data available so others can further examine how geographic incarceration trends correlate with other problems communities face.”

The report cites studies that show that incarceration rates correlate with a variety of negative outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, depression, lower standardized test scores, reduced life expectancy and more. The data included in this report gives researchers the tools they need to better understand how these correlations play out in New Jersey.

“Eliminating prison-based gerrymandering in New Jersey was not only a huge win for achieving fairer representation for incarcerated people, but it also allows us to see, down to the neighborhood-level, the true costs of mass incarceration in New Jersey,” said Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy & Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “The availability of this new data makes room for much more targeted and robust policy solutions to some of the often race-related inequities in the Garden State.”

This is the second in a series of reports examining the geography of mass incarceration in America.

New Jersey is one of more than a dozen states and 200 local governments that have addressed the practice of “prison gerrymandering,” which gives disproportional political clout to state and local districts that contain prisons at the expense of all of the other areas of the state. In total, roughly half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address prison gerrymandering.




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