Tag Archive for Bureau of Justice Statistics

First Decline in Prison Population Since 1972 Coincides With Crime Decline

Tennessee State PrisonFor the second consecutive year, data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed a decline in the adult correctional population, while crime rates decreased as well. [Prisoners in 2010 PDF] Even more promising is the decline in the total U.S. prison population – caused primarily by a decrease in the state prison population (the federal prison population experienced a slight increase).

From the report’s introduction:

On December 31, 2010, state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,605,127 prisoners, a decrease of 9,228 prisoners from yearend 2009. The combined U.S. prison population decreased 0.6% in 2010, the first decline since 1972. The 2010 imprisonment rate for the nation was 497 sentenced
prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents, which is 1 in 201 residents

Two of the highlights from the report stand out in particular:

In 2009, the most recent data available, 53% of state prison inmates were serving time for violent offenses, 19% for property, 18% for drug, and 9% for public order or other offenses.„

About half (51%) of federal inmates in 2010 were serving time for drug offenses, 35% for public-order offenses (largely weapons and immigration), and less than 10% each for violent and property offenses.

The jump from 9 to 35% for public order offenses ties in disturbingly well my assertion in a prior post that we need to look at arrest rates. Since 1972 the number of juveniles arrested for thing other than minor traffic violations experience a jump from 225 of the population to a full third of it. This would seem to correlate well with the findings above.

Image Source: kelseywynns on Flickr, used under its Creative Commons license