Tennessee has an incarceration rate of 838 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 any democratic country on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Tennessee and why.
55,000 people from Tennessee are behind bars
Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Tennesee is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 117,000 different people are booked into local jails in Tennessee.
Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years
More than third of the people held in jails in Tennessee are held for federal or state agencies, primarily the state prison system. To avoid counting them twice, this population is not included in the yellow jails line. For annual counts of people in jails held for federal or state authorizes in Tennessee, see our table "Jail and prison incarcerated populations by state over time."
This graph excludes people held for state or federal authorities from the total count of people held in Tennessee jails. Because a significant proportion (33%) of the population in Tennessee's jails is held for the state prison system and the U.S. Marshals Service, this graph likely overstates the convicted population and understates the pre-trial population.
Today, Tennessee’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
Tennessee's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails