U.S. correctional population declines for ninth straight year

At the end of last year, the Department of Justice reported that the number of adults supervised by the U.S. correctional system dropped for the ninth consecutive year in 2016. The correctional population includes persons supervised in the community on probation or parole and those incarcerated in prisons or local jails.

From 2007 to 2016, the proportion of the adult population under the supervision of U.S. correctional authorities decreased by 18 percent, from 3,210 to 2,640 adults under correctional supervision per 100,000 residents. The number of adults under correctional supervision per 100,000 U.S. adult residents was lower in 2016 than at any time since 1993.

The incarcerated population decreased from 2,172,800 in 2015 to 2,162,400 in 2016. All of this decrease was due to a decline in the prison population. The jail population remained relatively stable.

That the correctional and incarcerated populations are decreasing while violent crime is on the rise should give pause to those, or at least to conservatives, who are pushing for legislation that would let felons out of jail early. Moreover, as I have argued, there’s reason to believe that, although more than 2 million prisoners is an awful lot, we may have an under-incarceration problem in America.

What’s indisputable is that the correctional population has declined quite significantly in recent years and is at a nearly quarter-century low.


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