Assessing and targeting criminal justice reforms requires an up-to-date view of the number of people in state and federal prisons. The Bureau of Justice Statistics collects this data, but their reports lag prison populations by a year or more.
In order to get an earlier glimpse at these numbers, Vera researchers collected information directly from states and the federal Bureau of Prisons to estimate the number of people in prison at the end of 2017. The data revealed that the recent trend of decreasing prison incarceration continued in 2017, with the total U.S. prison population dropping below 1.5 million for the first time since 2004. Despite the overall declines, 20 states increased their prison population, leaving 10 states with all-time-high numbers of people in prison.
Despite the national reduction in the prison population, more work is required to unwind mass incarceration.