Visualizing 10.6 million jail admissions

illustration by Mona Chalabi of a person with their hands handcuffed behind their backThis is one jail admission.

A staggering 731,000 people are held in local jails across the U.S. every day. But the real impact of jails is actually far greater: People go to jail 10.6 million times each year. We collaborated with data journalist and illustrator Mona Chalabi to visualize just how vast a number 10.6 million jail admissions is.

Grasping the scale of this problem is critical, as even short-term jail stays can be devastating. Suicide rates in jail dwarf those in the general population and the prison population. Just two or three days of pretrial detention increases the odds of rearrest, imprisonment, and longer sentences. Jail incarceration impairs economic mobility, contributes to homelessness, and causes disruption in medical care, essential benefits like food stamps and Medicaid, and family life.

You’ve seen just one day: 29,000 people.

Three days: 87,000 admissions.
26% of jail suicides occur within three days of admission.

One week: 204,000 admissions.
40% of all jail deaths occur within one week of admission.

25 days: 726,000 jail admissions.
25 days is also the average length of stay in jail.

By mid-March, there are about 2 million jail admissions.

This is already more than the number of Bachelor’s degrees granted each year. College degrees lead to higher wages and net worth, while incarceration hurts economic prospects and reduces net worth.

By Mother’s Day: 3.8 million admissions.
Over 100,000 women are in jail on any given day. 80% of them are mothers.

By the end of June: 5.3 million jail admissions.
This is just the halfway point.

By September: 7 million jail admissions.
As students head back to school, 3,700 youth are confined in adult jails.

By Thanksgiving: 9.5 million jail admissions.

While families get together for the holidays, many will be missing incarcerated loved ones. 1 in 4 women has an incarcerated family member, and 1 in 12 children has a parent who has been to jail or prison.

10.6 million: one year of jail admissions.

Data Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jail Inmates in 2016. (Graph: Mona Chalabi, 2018)

This graph originally appeared in Artist collaboration: Visualizing 10.6 million jail admissions each year.

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