In April 2012, the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released its annual report on “Jail Inmates at Midyear 2011.” This report documents trends in the nation’s jail population and presents a profile of people confined in jail across the country. Since the report was first issued in 1982, the number of persons confined in jails nationwide in June of each year peaked in June 2008 at 785,533 inmates. Midyear 2011 marked the third straight year of declining jail inmate populations, and from June 2010 to June 2011, the total number of persons confined in county and city jails nationwide (735,601) declined by 1.8%, or 13,127 inmates. Since June 2008, reported annual jail populations have declined by an average of 2.2% (16,644 people) per year.
While both the nation’s confined jail population and rated capacity of the jail system (the maximum number of beds allocated to each jail by a state or local official) increased at comparable rates from 2000 through 2008, since 2008 the confined jail population has declined by about 2% per year while the number of available jail beds increased by the same percentage. As a result, the jail population as a percent of rated capacity declined from roughly 95% of capacity in 2008, to 84% of capacity in 2011.
Other findings of note in the BJS report include:
- Other findings of note in the BJS report include:
- The nation’s jail incarceration rate – the number confined in jail per 100,000 U.S. residents dropped from 259 per 100,000 in 2007, to 236 at midyear 2011 – the lowest incarceration rate since 2002.
- Across the nation, local jails admitted 11.8 million persons during the 12 months ending midyear 2011, down from 12.9 million admitted during the same period in 2010, and 13.6 million in 2008.
- Over the ten-year period ending in 2011, the rated capacity of jails nationwide increased from 699,309 in 2001, to 877,302 in 2011 – an increase of 25% and 177,993 jail beds.
- Despite recent annual declines in the jail population, over the past decade the number of prisoners confined in jails grew from 631,240 in 2001, to 735,601 in 2011 – an increase of 104,361 prisoners and 16.5% growth. Will this trend continue, or are we seeing a turning point? The rate of decline in Virginia’s jail population began to slow in FY2011, and there were about the same number of local-responsible inmates in Virginia jails in FY2011 as was reported in FY2010.
In Virginia, jail population declines have also been reported since midyear 2008. After substantial growth of more than 7% in both fiscal year (FY) 2006 and FY2007 (years ending June of each year), the average local-responsible jail population (those prisoners in jail who are neither State nor Federal inmates) dropped by 1.7% in FY2008. This was followed by declines of about 3% each year through FY2010.
Will this trend continue, or are we seeing a turning point? The rate of decline in Virginia’s jail population began to slow in FY2011, and there were about the same number of local-responsible inmates in Virginia jails in FY2011 as was reported in FY2010.
Based on official statewide forecasts produced in November 2011, the number of admissions to Virginia jails and the local responsible jail inmate population in Virginia is projected to begin increasing in 2012 and continue to grow over the next five years.