National Incarceration Briefing Series
Our research helps the public understand that mass incarceration is both unprecedented and counterproductive.
Our report and infographic follows up the 2014 briefing that, for the first time, directly situated individual U.S. states in the global context. This updated version reveals that despite some progress, every region in the U.S. is still out of step with rest of the world when it comes to incarceration.
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.
With data artist Josh Begley, we released a report with an interactive graphic that compares every U.S. state’s use of prison to that of other nations, showing that incarceration in every state — even those with relatively progressive policies — is out of line with the international community.
Our report and interactive graphic compare every U.S. state's use of prison for women to that of other nations, showing that not only do we incarcerate women far more than other nations, but we also incarcerate far more women than we have in the past.
Prison is just one piece of the correctional pie. Our report, interactive graphic, and 100+ pie charts for each state and D.C. provide breakdowns of the criminal justice system in each state.
State — not federal — policy is driving mass incarceration, but each state is charting its own course. This report includes 100+ graphs showing the rise (and occasional decline) of the incarceration rate in every state.
Racial and ethnic disparities are an unacceptable but defining characteristic of our prison system, yet in 2006 the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics stopped publishing state-level information about racial disparities in incarceration. We used our familiarity with U.S. Census data to chart racial disparities in incarceration with 200+ graphs.
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.
With data scientist Daniel Kopf, we uncover the data to show that even before their incarceration, the people in prison are much poorer than Americans of similar ages.
With data scientist Daniel Kopf, we find that extreme distances between prisons and the places that incarcerated people call home actively discourage family visits.
Racial and ethnic disparities are an unacceptable but defining characteristic of our prison system, and here we unlock part of the answer to why African-Americans and Latinos fill the prisons while Whites get the jobs running the prisons: the prisons are disproportionately built in White areas.
Explainers from our blog:
- Data update: Incarcerated population inching down by Wendy Sawyer, December 29, 2016.
We updated our chart of incarcerated over time to demonstrate where the emphasis of our reform efforts needs to be: in the states.
- Probation population declines: Good, but not good enough by Wendy Sawyer, December 21, 2016.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics announced that the number of adults on probation fell again in 2015, but at the current rate, it will take 20 years to undo the increase in probation from the Reagan administration alone.
- 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.
- Tallying the extent of the Clinton-era crime bills by Peter Wagner, May 25, 2016.
Seven deadly sins: the problem with Bill Clinton’s criminal justice legacy isn't one bill, or two or even three, but at least seven bills.
- States, help families stay together by correcting a consequence of the Adoption and Safe Families Act by Alison Walsh, May 24, 2016
While the goal of the Adoption and Safe Families Act is noble, the law has the unintended consequence of depriving incarcerated parents of their legal rights to their children.
- Have we gone too far myth busting criminal justice reform? Drug policy is still important by Bernadette Rabuy, May 23, 2016
We didn’t get mass incarceration from War on Drugs alone, but drugs play an important role in less discussed stages of criminal justice systems
- New BJS report explores the graying of prisons by Meredith Booker, May 19, 2016.
People 55 and older are now the fastest growing age group in the U.S. prison population.
- President Obama’s record on clemency: A premature celebration by Meredith Booker, May 17, 2016.
Despite his grand intentions, Obama is on track to grant the smallest portion of requests for clemency in history.
- 20 years is enough: Time to repeal the Prison Litigation Reform Act by Meredith Booker, May 5, 2016.
The PLRA effectively closed the courthouse door on incarcerated people trying to protect their civil rights.
- The Crippling Effect of Incarceration on Wealth by Meredith Booker, April 26, 2016.
We make two graphs from Zaw, Hamilton, and Darity’s groundbreaking dataset to illustrate the racial, ethnic and wealth disparities in incarceration.
- Uncovering Mass Incarceration’s Literacy Disparity by Corey Michon, April 1, 2016.
Literacy is a key metric for how our society sets some groups up to fail.
- Are private prisons driving mass incarceration? by Peter Wagner, October 7, 2015.
Private prisons are more like a parasite on the publicly-owned prison system, not the root cause of mass incarceration.
- Mass incarceration and the presidential candidates by Peter Wagner, September 3, 2015.
Blaming the 1990s public for mass incarceration is too simple of an answer.
- 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?
- Probation: The nicest sounding way to grease the skids of mass incarceration, by Peter Wagner, August 11, 2015.
More than half the people under correctional control are on probation, making probation the leading type of correctional control
- Suicide in jails is a national crisis, by Bernadette Rabuy, August 4, 2015.
New BJS report shows that suicide in jails has been leading cause of death from 2000-2013.
- In prisons, Blacks and Latinos do the time while Whites get the jobs, by Rachel Gandy, July 10, 2015.
The Attica prison rebellion resulted from a racial/ethnic disparity between the incarcerated and the staff. Decades later, that disparity still hasn't changed.
- Justice Breyer argues the death penalty isn't just cruel, it's unusual too, by Rachel Gandy, July 2, 2015.
The death penalty is on its way out. The portion of the country that lives in a state where the death penalty was used within the last three years has been in consistent decline for 15 years.
- One institution, two different views: How Black and White Americans regard the police, by Rachel Gandy, July 2, 2015.
Year after year, Blacks consistently report having less confidence in the police than Whites.
- Victimization figures show slight decline in violent crime, by Bernadette Rabuy, September 18, 2014.
While recent BJS figures showed an increase in total incarcerated population, crime figures show a decrease in violent crime.
- Mass incarceration is getting bigger, by Peter Wagner and Leah Sakala, September 16, 2014.
New report serves as a sobering reminder that state-level criminal justice policy decisions are continuing to ensure that our nation remains the top incarcerator in the world.