Prisoners In 2012: Trends In Admissions And Releases, 1991-2012

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 13, 2014

“The total U.S. correctional population (on probation, parole, in prison or jail) decreased for the fourth consecutive year during 2012 (down 51,000 offenders or 0.7 percent), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced [December 19, 2013]. This was the smallest decrease in the population since 2009. Nearly the entire drop in the total correctional population during 2012 was due to a decline in the number of probationers (down 38,300) and prisoners held in the physical custody of state or federal prisons (down 21,100). The parole population (down 500) remained relatively stable during 2012 while the jail population (up 8,900) was the only correctional population to increase during the year, partially offsetting the overall decline in the U.S. correctional population.  At yearend 2012, about 6.94 million people were supervised by the U.S. adult correctional systems, which was the equivalent to about 1 in 35 U.S. adults (or 2.9 percent of the adult resident population), the lowest rate observed since 1997.  About 3.94 million offenders were supervised in the community on probation and 851,200 on parole.  Around 1.35 million where incarcerated in state prisons, 217,800 in federal prisons and 744,500 in local jails. During 2012, an estimated 4.1 million adults moved onto or off probation. Probation entries (2.05 million) declined for the fifth consecutive year, while probation exits (2.09 million) declined for the third consecutive year. The rate of incarceration among probationers at risk for violating their conditions of supervision in 2012 (5 percent) dropped below the rate observed in 2008 (6 percent). Both parole entries (down 9 percent) and exits (down 7 percent) declined between 2011 and 2012. Among parolees at risk for violating their conditions of supervision, about 9 percent were reincarcerated during 2012, down from 12 percent during 2011. A decrease in admissions to prison drove the decline in the U.S. prison population during 2012. A total of 609,800 offenders were admitted to state or federal prisons in 2012, the lowest number since 1999, while the number of offenders released from prison in 2012 (637,400) exceeded admissions for the fourth consecutive year. Releases from federal prison exceeded admissions for the first time since 1980. An estimated 1,511,500 prisoners were sentenced to more than one year under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities in 2012—a decrease of 27,400 inmates from yearend 2011. Prisoners under age 45 accounted for 80 percent of prison admissions, 77 percent of releases and 72 percent of the yearend prison population in 2012. The majority of state prisoners (53 percent) were serving time for violent offenses in 2011, the most recent year for which offense data are available.”

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