National Correctional Population Declines for Second Year

WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report in December 2014 showing the national correctional population dropped by 41,500 persons in 2013. This decrease brought the 2013 yearend nationwide inmate total to 6.89 million and marked a 0.6 percent decrease over 2012 figures — making 2013 the second consecutive year of correctional population decline.

The drop in the nation’s correctional population during 2013 was due to a 32,100-inmate decline in the number of individuals on probation and a 13,300-inmate decline throughout local jails, according to “Correctional Populations in the United States, 2013.” However, the national parole population increased by more than 2,000 and the nationwide prison population rose by approximately 4,300, partially offsetting the overall decline.

By the end of 2013, the number of persons under adult correctional supervision was the smallest observed since 2003, said the BJS in a statement. Of these, roughly seven in 10 offenders were supervised in the community on probation (3.91 million) or parole (853,200), compared to about three in 10 incarcerated in state and federal prisons (1.57 million) or local jails (731,200).

A 6,300-inmate increase in state prisons caused the overall prison population to rise throughout 2013. The total number of federal inmates, however, decreased by 1,900 for the first time since 1980.

At the end of 2013, an estimated one in 35 U.S. adults, or roughly 2.8 percent of the country’s total adult population, participated in some form of correctional supervision. An estimated one in 51 adults in the country were involved in probation or parole at the end of 2013, and nearly one in 110 were incarcerated in either prisons or local jails. The number of persons under adult correctional supervision per 100,000 U.S. adults actually decreased from 2,870 per 100,000 at yearend 2012 to 2,830 per 100,000 at the end of 2013.

“Since 2007, the correctional supervision rate has declined more rapidly than the number of persons under adult correctional supervision, but half of the decrease in this rate came from the increase in the size of the U.S. adult resident population,” concluded study authors Lauren E. Glaze and Danielle Kaeble.

In terms of composition, little about the country’s correctional population has changed since 2010. The percentage of probationers remained steady at 57 percent, while prison inmates accounted for 23 percent. Parolees and jail inmates made up 12 percent and 11 percent of the total correctional population respectively.

One notable shift occurred in the correctional population’s demographic breakdown. The percentage of female inmates has risen by 3 percent since 2000, and women now comprise 25 percent of the country’s total correctional population. Additionally, women now make up 14 percent of the total jail population, also a 3 percent rise from 2000. The female jail population is actually the fastest growing segment of the overall correctional population, increasing by an average annual rate of 3.4 since 2010, according to the BJS. In contrast, however, the percentage of females on parole or incarcerated in either state or federal prisons has remained steady since 2000.