American Prison System – a Statistical Analysis

Posted by admin  /   March 27, 2010  /   Posted in Ins and Outs  /   No Comments

Prisoner Population
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2008, the total population of prisoners in America, including both adult and juvenile offenders, both male and female, included almost 2.5 million people. At the time, the United States’ total citizen population was around 300,000,000; meaning that 1 in every 120 Americans were incarcerated. Most of these inmates were located in federal and state prisons (1.5 million) or local jails (780,000). Close to 90,000 were in juvenile facilities, with the rest being housed in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities or military facilities. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and has more prisoners than the top 30 European countries combined.

The picture below, from ACA Directory of Correctional Facilities shows how the federal prison inmate population has grown over the last several decades.

Racial Demographics
The largest prison demographic is made up of African Americans, at around 40% of the total population. This is especially surprising considering that African Americans make up only about 15% of the total American population. There are around 850,000 black males and 65,000 black females incarcerated.
Hispanics account for 20% of the prison population, compared to about 17% of the general American population.
The remaining prison population is made up of Caucasians, Native Americans, and other races.

Age Demographics
Although the number of imprisoned youths has steadily declined over the last decade, there are still more than 70,000 incarcerated, as of 2012. There are seven times as many male youths incarcerated than females. Around 125,000 inmates are elderly (aged 55 or older), many of which were given life sentences decades ago. Some of these elderly prisoners have spent the majority of their adult lives in prison, and many of them will likely stay in prison for the remainder of their lives. It is estimated that close to a tenth of the annual budget for prisons pays for medical care for elderly prisoners.

These statistics are according the Bureau of Justice statistics from 2008.