The nation’s jails held nearly 745,000 inmates as of mid-2014, well below the peak population of 2008 but still up significantly since 2000, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced.
The majority (60%) of jail inmates in 2014 were not serving time for crimes but rather were behind bars awaiting trial or sentencing on pending charges. That percentage has remained essentially unchanged for the past decade.
Indeed, almost all of the 20% growth in the jail population since 2000 is the result of the increasing number of defendants being detained while awaiting resolution of their cases.
In general, individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes serve up to a year in city or county jails. Felony crimes carry heavier sentences that are served in state or federal prisons. As of December 2013, prisons nationwide held more than 1.57 million inmates, according to the BJS.
President Barack Obama has called for changes to the criminal justice system designed to reduce the number of incarcerated Americans. In July 2015, he took that message to a medium-security prison in Oklahoma, becoming the first sitting president to visit a federal correctional institution.
Findings from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Annual Survey of Jails found that the number of inmates being held in 2014 had ticked up about 1.8% from the 2013 total of approximately 731,200. That compares to a high of 785,500 jail inmates in 2008.
The jail incarceration rate for adults and juveniles in 2014 was 234 inmates per 100,000 residents. Overall, city and county jails admitted about 11.4 million inmates between July 2013 and June 2014, down from a high of 13.6 million admissions in 2008.
Other highlights of the June 2015 report:
Although only 6% of jails in the United States held an average of 1,000 or more inmates a day, those detention facilities accounted for 47% of the inmate population as of mid-2014, the Bureau of Justice Statistics noted.
Jails nationwide had space for a total of nearly 890,500 inmates, meaning they operated at 83.6% of capacity as of mid-2014. That’s down from the 96.3% level of 2007 when jails had space for roughly 810,500 inmates.