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Massachusetts has an incarceration rate of 275 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), meaning that it locks up a higher percentage of its people than almost any democratic country on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Massachusetts and why.


16,000 people from Massachusetts are behind bars

Pie chart showing that 22,000 Massachusetts residents are locked up in federal prisons, state prisons, local jails and other types of facilities

Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Massachusetts is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 70,000 different people are booked into local jails in Massachusetts.


Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years

graph showing the number of people in state prison and local jails per 100,000 residents in Massachusetts from 1978 to 2015 Also see these Massachusetts graphs:


Graph showing the number of people in Massachusetts jails who were convicted and the number who were unconvicted, for the years 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1999, 2005, and 2013.


Today, Massachusetts’s incarceration rates stand out internationally

graphic comparing the incarceration rates of the founding NATO members with the incarceration rates of the United States and the state of Massachusetts. The incarceration rate of 664 per 100,000 for the United States and 275 for Massachusetts is much higher than any of the founding NATO members In the U.S., incarceration extends beyond prisons and local jails to include other systems of confinement. The U.S. and state incarceration rates in this graph include people held by these other parts of the justice system, so they may be slightly higher than the commonly reported incarceration rates that only include prisons and jails. Details on the data are available in States of Incarceration: The Global Context. We also have a version of this graph focusing on the incarceration of women.


People of color are overrepresented in prisons and jails

2021 graph showing incarceration rates per 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic groups in Massachusetts

racial and ethnic disparities between the prison/jail and general population in MA as of 2021


Massachusetts's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails

Pie chart showing that 85,000 Massachusetts residents are in various types of correctional facilities or under criminal justice supervision on probation or parole See detailed data on incarceration and supervision numbers and rates by state.


Reports and briefings about Massachusetts's criminal legal system:


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