Jail Population Trends

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.

Reference: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=4235

Video Visitation Advancements

Recently Moseley Architects invited some current and prospective clients to our Richmond office for presentations and demonstrations of video visitation systems. Our guests, jail administrators, sheriffs, corrections planners and state corrections personnel were introduced to three different video visitation system manufacturers and a systems integrator, all who specialize in the installation and maintenance of video visitation systems in jail and prison systems.  The manufacturers Renovo Software, VizVox, LLC, and Innovisit, LLC, conducted demonstrations and presented information of their respective products.  They identified the systems primary components, described the systems’ functionalities, presented cost options, and discussed the standard and optional features available.

Today, most Moseley Architects’ jail and prison designs incorporate video visitation components into the plans. The question of whether video visitation saves money is no longer a matter of debate – it does. How quickly a system pays for itself is not as clear, and savings are not always easy to quantify. Paybacks result from (1) labor savings as a result of not having to escort inmates to and from housing areas to visitor stations and reduced management of the public in the visitor area; (2) labor and transportation savings from not having to transport inmates for professional visits such as courtroom arraignments, medical, and attorney consultations, and (3) reduction in contraband entering the facility and increased safety and security of staff and inmates.

Increasingly, video visitation systems offer what promises to be such potentially cost-effective options as Web-based self-scheduling systems, real time monitoring of visits, digital storage of visits, video arraignment, and court document software which allows detainees to review and electronically sign court documents.  A major advance has also been the development of optional features for visitation systems to allow integration with jail or prison management information systems, commissary systems, email accounts and library/educational program accounts. Video visitation and arraignment in jails and prisons is increasingly replacing inmates’ in-person courtroom visits, parole board and even replacing face-to-face psychiatric, medical and attorney consultations. All of which have the potential to save time and money.

The most obvious way to generate revenue from video visitation is charge for visits. While a certain number of free visits are required in all jurisdictions (the number varies by locality) there is generally no prohibition against charging fees for additional visits and fees for these visits can typically be set by administrators. Some agencies provide multiple visitor centers in the community from which visitors can participate in remote visits. Visitors can choose from one of several locations in the community and are charged fees for this convenience “service.” Community video centers are in such places as local police stations, community centers, other jails or prisons in the area, or local churches.

Correctional and detention facilities are increasingly moving to internet visitation to provide an easier visiting solution for the public, reduce contraband entering the facility, and generate additional revenue. In one locality a mobile detention visitation bus travels the county and makes stops at strategic locations.

The issue of allowing nonprofessional visitors to chat with inmates from their residences is still an issue up for debate. Many officials are not yet comfortable with the overall lack of content control and control over “who” is talking to the inmate on the other end of the line. No doubt technology will continue to advance to address these concerns. As advances are made, the probability that video systems will not only pay for themselves but become increasing sources of revenue.