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I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 16 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

But now, more than ever, we need your help to put data & compassion into the conversation. Any gift you can make today will be matched by other donors and go twice as far.

Thank you.
—Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate
Graph showing the local jail population by number of people who are serving a jail sentence, who are being detained pretrial, and who are being held for other authorities from 1983 to 2013. The pre-trial detention population is the largest and the fastest growing. The sentenced population is much smaller and has been declining since 1998.

Data Source: Compiled from multiple Bureau of Justice Statistics datasets. See our report's methodology for all of the details. (Graph: Joshua Aiken, 2017)

This graph originally appeared in Era of Mass Expansion: Why State Officials Should Fight Jail Growth.

Traditionally, the main role of jails was to confine people who have been convicted of minor crimes, but those numbers have actually decreased in the last two decades. National jail growth is driven by the rise in pre-trial detention and in the holding of people for other agencies.

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