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2,173,000 Americans Incarcerated

2,173,000 Americans Incarcerated
During a rally in Albany, N.Y. on May 10, 2017, Lashawn Marston, of Queens, a member of Just Leadership USA, protests with the group Challenge Incarceration (and others) demanding New York's governor and state Legislature overhaul New York's parole and incarceration policies. (Hans Pennink/AP)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017 09:14 AM Current | Bio | Archive

At the end of 2015, the Justice Department reported that 2,173,000 Americans were either in prison or a local jail.

The Brookings Institution says that "there is now widespread, bipartisan agreement that mass incarceration is a huge problem in the United States." And it goes beyond those currently in prison. As shown in the table here, which includes numbers for those on parole and probation, a total of 6,741,400 Americans (2.7 percent of the adult population) are currently ensnared in our correctional systems.

Number of people







Local jail


In both raw numbers and as a share of the population, America imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. One out of every 37 Americans is currently under the supervision of our correctional institutions.

The share of Americans in prison has grown dramatically over the past several decades. One of the driving factors has been the war on drugs. Brookings notes that “[d]rug crimes have been the predominant reason for new admissions into state and federal prisons in recent decades." However, the institution adds, "[R]olling back the war on drugs would not . . . totally solve the problem of mass incarceration."

It’s important to recognize that the figures above reflect only the current prison population. Statistics compiled by The Sentencing Project suggest that one out of every nine men and one out of every 56 women will spend time in prison during their lifetime. For minorities, the figures are even more depressing: One out of every three black men are likely to spend some time in prison.  

Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.

Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The Brookings Institution says that there is now widespread, bipartisan agreement that mass incarceration is a huge problem in the United States.
brookings, federal, prisons
Tuesday, 18 July 2017 09:14 AM
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