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Statistics - General

"State and local spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of funding for public education for preschool through grade P-12 education in the last three decades, a new analysis by the U.S. Department of Education found.

Released today, the report, Trends in State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education, notes that even when population changes are factored in, 23 states increased per capita spending on corrections at more than double the rate of increases in per-pupil P-12 spending. Seven states—Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia—increased their corrections budgets more than five times as fast as they did their allocations for P-12 public education. The report also paints a particularly stark picture of higher education spending across the country at a time when post secondary education matters more than ever. Since 1990, state and local spending on higher education has been largely flat while spending on corrections has increased 89 percent."

(Published May 17, 2018) The publication The Criminal History of Federal Offenders provides for the first time complete information on the number of convictions and types of offenses in the criminal histories of federal offenders sentenced in a fiscal year.

While the Commission has collected the criminal history points and Criminal History Category (CHC) as determined under the guidelines, it has not collected complete information on the number of convictions or the types of offenses in the criminal histories of federal offenders until now. The Commission is now able to utilize recent technological improvements to expand the scope of information it collects on an offender’s criminal history and provide a more complete assessment of the criminal history of federal offenders. In completing this report, the Commission collected additional details about the criminal histories for 61,946 of the 67,742 federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016 for whom complete documentation was submitted to the Commission.

Key findings of the Commission’s study are as follows:

  • Almost three-quarters (72.8%) of federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016 had been convicted of a prior offense. The average number of previous convictions was 6.1 among offenders with criminal history.
  • Public order was the most common prior offense, as 43.7 percent of offenders with prior criminal history had at least one conviction for a public order offense.
  • A conviction for a prior violent offense was almost as common as prior public order offenses, as 39.5 percent of offenders with criminal history had at least one prior violent offense. Assault was the most common violent offense (29.5%), followed by robbery (8.1%), and rape (4.4%). Just under two percent of offenders with criminal history had a prior homicide offense.
  • The nature of offenders’ criminal histories varied considerably by their federal instant offense. The substantial majority (91.7%) of firearms offenders had at least one previous conviction compared to about half of fraud (52.4%) and child pornography (48.2%) offenders. Firearms offenders were also most likely to have violence in their criminal histories, as 62.0 percent of firearms offenders with a previous conviction had a violent previous conviction. Fraud offenders were the least likely of offenders with criminal history to have a violent previous conviction (26.2%).
  • Most (86.6%) federal offenders with criminal history had convictions that were assigned criminal history points under the guidelines. Offenders who had at least one three-point conviction were the most likely of all offenders with convictions to have a murder (3.8%) or rape/sexual assault (7.0%) offense in their criminal histories.
  • A criminal history score of zero does not necessarily mean an offender had no prior criminal history. Almost one in ten offenders (9.8 percent) in fiscal year 2016 had a criminal history score of zero but had at least one prior conviction.

"Despite its widespread use, research shows that the effect of incarceration as a deterrent to crime is minimal at best, and has been diminishing for several years. Indeed, increased rates of incarceration have no demonstrated effect on violent crime and in some instances may increase crime. There are more effective ways to respond to crime—evidenced by the 19 states that recently reduced both their incarceration and crime rates. This brief summarizes the weak relationship between incarceration and crime reduction, and highlights proven strategies for improving public safety that are more effective and less expensive than incarceration."

"This report fills a critical gap in understanding the mass incarceration phenomenon: it offers a way to quantify the degree to which in each state mass incarceration is about sending Blacks and Latinos to communities with very different racial/ethnic make-ups than their own. We use data from the 2010 Census to compare the race and ethnicity of incarcerated people to that of the people in the surrounding county, finding that, for many counties, the racial and ethnic make-up of these populations is very different."

This is a great set of charts showing various correctional trends. Charts show: U.S. state and federal prisons population, 1925-2012; international rates of incarceration, 2011; federal and state prison population by offense, 2011; state expenditures on corrections, 1985-2010; population under control of the U.S. corrections system, 1980 and 2010; number of people in prisons and jails for drug offenses, 1980 and 2011; number of people in federal prisons for drug offenses, 1980-2010; number of women in state and federal prisons, 1980-2012; highest and lowest state incarceration rates (per 100,000) by women, overall, and men, 2012; rate of incarceration by gender, race and ethnicity, 2011; people in state and federal prisons by race and ethnicity, 2011; lifetime likelihood of imprisonment by all men, white men, black men, Latino men, all women, white women, black women, and Latina women; number of people serving life without parole sentences, 1992-2012; number of people serving life sentences, 1984-2012; and the number of juveniles held in adult prisons and jails, 1985-2010.

Trends in U.S. Corrections Cover

"From a peak of 1 in 100 in 2007-08, the U.S. incarceration rate has dropped back to 1 in 115 adults, according to an analysis of federal Bureau of Justice Statistics data conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts."

The overall pace of decarceration has varied considerably across states, but has been modest overall. Thirty-nine states and the federal government had downsized their prisons by 2017. Five states—Alaska, New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York—reduced their prison populations by over 30% since reaching their peak levels. But among the 39 states that reduced levels of imprisonment, 14 states downsized their prisons by less than 5%. Eleven states, led by Arkansas, had their highest ever prison populations in 2017.

By yearend 2017, 1.4 million people were imprisoned in the United States, a decline of 7% since the prison population reached its peak level in 2009. This follows a nearly 700% growth in the prison population between 1972 and 2009. 

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