The number of adults in the correctional system has declined by about 1% annually, a group that includes inmates in local jails, and state and federal prisons, as well as offenders supervised by probation and parole agencies.
At its peak in 2007, more than 7.3 million people were counted among the national correctional population, federal statistics show.
At the end of 2014, however, about 6.85 million individuals were being supervised, down about 52,200 over the previous year, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported in January 2016.
The number of individuals receiving some form of correctional supervision at the end of 2014 was the lowest tally since 1996. The total represents about 2.8% of all adults in the United States.
The decrease comes even as the number of people behind bars experienced a marginal bump (about 1,900 inmates) in 2014.
According to the BJS, most of the decrease in the correctional population – about 88%, or more than 488,000 offenders – can be attributed to a decline in the number of offenders serving probation.
The bureau’s annual report found that seven jurisdictions, including Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, California and Florida, accounted for 48% of the total correctional population. Of those, Texas led the pack with nearly 700,000 adults in the correctional system.
The report also found that 47 jurisdictions had a larger percentage of offenders being supervised at the community level than incarcerated in prisons or jails.
Since 2007, federal data shows overall declines in prison and jail populations, as well as offenders serving some form of probation. The only category to show an increase since 2007 is the number of individuals on parole, which totaled 856,900 as of December 2014. That’s up from the 826,100 parolees reported in 2007.
Recent years have seen a variety of initiatives launched at the local, state and federal levels aimed at easing overcrowded correctional systems and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system. Those efforts have included proposed changes to mandatory sentencing laws and expanded treatment options for drug offenders.
Taxpayers pay billions each year to keep inmates under lock and key. The Federal Register reported that the average cost of incarceration for federal inmates in fiscal year 2014 was about $84 per day, or more than $30,600 annually.
There were nearly 196,000 inmates in federal custody as of mid-February 2016, nearly half of them serving time for drug crimes, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
By comparison, drug offenders accounted for 16% of the roughly 1.35 million inmates in state prisons nationwide as of late 2014.