Pennsylvania has an incarceration rate of 659 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 democracy on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Pennsylvania and why.
Jump to COVID-19 data.
96,000 people from Pennsylvania are behind bars
Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Pennsylvania is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 170,000 different people are booked into local jails in Pennsylvania.
Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years
Also see these Pennsylvania graphs:
Today, Pennsylvania’s incarceration rates stand out internationally
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
See also our detailed graphs about Whites,
in Pennsylvania prisons and jails.
Pennsylvania's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails
Data on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania jails and prisons
We gave Pennsylvania a "D-" grade in September 2021 for its response to the coronavirus in prisons, noting that:
- Pennsylvania used multiple release mechanisms to reduce their populations, including accelerated release policies, medical or compassionate release, not incarcerating people for technical parole violations, and releasing people held for minor offenses.
- Nevertheless, Pennsylvania had the sixth highest COVID-19 death rate in prisons of any US state.
For more detail, see our report States of Emergency. Or check out these other resources:
- During the pandemic, Pennsylvania suspended medical copays for incarcerated people seeking treatment for COVID-like symptoms. It should end these copays completely.
- Our Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic page tracks criminal justice policy responses to the coronavirus all 50 states
- Despite the pandemic, Pennsylvania held more youth under age 18 in adult prisons in 2020 than in 2019.
- As of late April 2021, only 21% of corrections staff in Pennsylvania prisons had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine
- Pennsylvania released fewer people on parole in 2020 than in 2019
- How crowded are Pennsylvania prisons, as of December 2020?
- How many COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania communities can be linked to outbreaks in correctional facilities? (data from our report Mass Incarceration, COVID-19, and Community Spread)
- State prison and jail population data for February 2022. (Previous data is available for October 2021, June 2021, February 2021, December 2020, September 2020, August 2020, and May 2020.) Data availability varies by state.
Our other articles about Pennsylvania