Update: Changes in State Imprisonment Rates

June 7, 2016

[Download a PDF of the fact sheet]

Today, there are 2.3 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500 percent increase over the last forty years. With almost one in 100 American adults behind bars, our incarceration rate is the world’s highest. This fact sheet provides an update to findings on state imprisonment trends originally outlined in The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act. It analyzes data from all 50 states on imprisonment and crime from 2006 (as bipartisan criminal justice reforms generally began around 2007) through 2014 (the most recent year of data).

Two overarching findings:

1. Many argue that increased incarceration is necessary to reduce crime. Yet the data shows the opposite. Over the last ten years, 27 states have decreased both crime and imprisonment. Not only is this trend possible, it’s played out in the majority of states. Nationally, imprisonment and crime have fallen together, 7 percent and 23 percent respectively since 2006. Crime continued its downward trend while incarceration also decreased.

2. In recent years, states in the South have seen some of the largest decreases in imprisonment. Yet, they also remain the largest incarcerators in the country. Mississippi reduced imprisonment by 10 percent but still has the nation’s 5th highest incarceration rate. Texas has reduced imprisonment by 15 percent yet still has the 7th highest imprisonment rate in the country.

Update: Changes in State Imprisonment