One out of every three people who were behind bars last night were confined in a jail; two out of every three correctional facilities is a jail, and almost every person (95%) released from a correctional facility today was released from a jail.
Jails are literally mass incarceration's front door, yet the scant attention paid to jails and jail policy is itself a key impediment to reform.
The Prison Policy Initiative seeks to put jails and the need for jail reform directly into the national discussion on criminal justice reform.
Below is some of our key research about jail and jail policies:
The U.S. jail population has tripled over the last three decades and our first-of-its-kind report looks at state trends to answer the question: what’s actually driving jail growth? Featuring more than 150 state-level graphs and state-by-state comparisons, we expose the real drivers: pre-trial detention and the renting of jail space to other authorities.
Our report and comprehensive graphic provide the big picture: 2.3 million people are locked up in more than 6,000 correctional facilities operated by thousands of agencies. The "whole pie" gives the public and policymakers the foundation to now consider the types of changes that would end the country's reign as the number one incarcerator in the world.
Our report uncovers where and why women fall under the control of our local, state, and federal systems. For the first time, we use our "whole pie" approach to give the public and policymakers the foundation to end mass incarceration without leaving women behind.
With data scientist Daniel Kopf, we find that the ability to pay money bail is impossible for too many defendants because it represents eight months of a typical defendant's income.
- Jails matter. But who is listening? by Peter Wagner, August 14, 2015.
Most of the people who go to prison or jail in a year go to jail, so why don't policymakers pay more attention to jails?
- Some private prisons are, um, public by Peter Wagner, June 9, 2016.
Private prisons get all the attention, but the hidden truth is that many county jails are profiting off incarceration too.
- Pretrial detention costs $13.6 billion each year by Bernadette Rabuy, February 7, 2017.
When we published our Following the Money of Mass Incarceration report, we also calculated the cost of locking people up before trial.
- The downstream effect of 35 years of jail growth? A state prison boom by Joshua Aiken, June 14, 2017.
Mass incarceration is not a question of prison or jail growth, but both: Putting more people behind bars for low-level crimes leads to entire justice systems bursting at the seams.
- Jail phone companies flood money into sheriff races by Aleks Kajstura, October 12, 2017.
New research shows jail phone companies contributing significant sums to sheriff's campaigns, even funding a quarter of one candidate's campaign spending.
- BJS report: Drug abuse and addiction at the root of 21% of crimes by Wendy Sawyer, June 28, 2017.
The widespread drug use and dependence among incarcerated people underscores the urgent need to redirect people and resources toward treatment.
- The life-threatening reality of short jail stays by Bernadette Rabuy, December 22, 2016.
BJS data shows suicide is still the leading cause of death in local jails. And most suicides occur shortly after jail admission.
- Analysis shows people in NYC jails would be better served in the community by Bernadette Rabuy, November 16, 2016.
A recent analysis finds that the most frequently incarcerated in New York City jails struggle with mental illness and are locked up for low-level offenses.
- Suicide in jails is a national crisis by Bernadette Rabuy, August 4, 2015.
BJS report shows that suicide in jails has been leading cause of death from 2000-2013.
- Who is in jail? Deep dive by Peter Wagner, December 8, 2015.
Jail churn and pre-trial detention are even more important than a quick look at the data suggests. Here, we correct for the fact that a sizable number of people are housed in jails for other agencies.
- The jails and pre-trial detention sections of our Research Clearinghouse for comprehensive edited links to empirical research by other organizations.