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Virginia has an incarceration rate of 679 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 Virginia and why.

60,000 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.

Using 2020 census data, we looked at where people in Virginia prisons and jails come from. We found many of the state's biggest and smallest communities are disproportionately harmed by mass incarceration.

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 2019 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, 2013, and 2019.

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 608 per 100,000 for the United States and 679 for Virginia 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 Virginia

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

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 See detailed data on incarceration and supervision numbers and rates by state.

Reports and briefings about Virginia's criminal legal system:

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