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Virginia has an incarceration rate of 749 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 democracy on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Virginia and why.

Jump to COVID-19 data.


69,000 people from Virginia are behind bars

Pie chart showing that 69,000 Virginia 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 Virginia is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 111,000 different people are booked into local jails in Virginia.


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 Virginia from 1978 to 2015 Also see these Virginia graphs:


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


Today, Virginia’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 Virginia. The incarceration rate of 664 per 100,000 for the United States and 749 for Virginia is much higher than any of the founding NATO membersIn 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

2010 graph showing incarceration rates per 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic groups in Virginia

racial and ethnic disparities between the prison/jail and general population in VA as of 2010

See also our detailed graphs about Whites and Blacks in Virginia prisons and jails.


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

Pie chart showing that 130,000 Virginia residents are in various types of correctional facilities or under criminal justice supervision on probation or parole


Data on COVID-19 in Virginia jails and prisons

We gave Virginia a "D-" grade in September 2021 for its response to the coronavirus in prisons, noting that:

  • Virginia failed to utilize one of the most obvious, and easiest, tools for reducing the prison population — stopping prison admissions for technical violations of probation and parole (which are not crimes).
  • We estimate that prisons and jails led to an additional 12,040 COVID-19 cases in Virginia in the summer of 2020 alone.

For more detail, see our report States of Emergency. Or check out these other resources:


Our other articles about Virginia


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