1.9 million people are locked up in the U.S. on any given day

At least 1 in 4 people who go to jail will be arrested again within the same year — often dealing with poverty, mental illness and substance use disorders, problems that only worsen with incarceration.

We go to The Prison Policy Initiative for a study on the current state of mass incarceration in the U.S.

Summary By: Natalie Mattson
Summary By: Natalie Mattson

The Study's Critical Points

  • 8% or less of all people incarcerated in the U.S. are located in private prisons.

  • 4 out of 5 people who are incarcerated are charged with something other than a drug offense.

  • of people in jail have substance use disorders, for which there is not adequate care provided.

  • 400% increase of people incarcerated dying of intoxication between 2000 and 2018.

  • 1 in 5 (18%) people in jail are there for a violation of probation or parole.

  • 153,000 people at least were incarcerated due to non-criminal violations of their parole or probation in 2019.

  • 25% of the daily national jail population is typically due to low-level offenses such as jaywalking or sitting on a sidewalk.


“In Monroe County, N.Y., for example, over 3,000 people have an active bench warrant at any time, more than 3 times the number of people in the county jails.”



  • 6,000 people are in federal prisons for convictions of immigration offenses

  • 16,000 more people are held in pretrial by the U.S. Marshals.

  •  22,000 people are civilly detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), facing deportation.

  • 38% of the incarcerated population is made up of Black Americans. However, they only represent 12% of the U.S. population.

VISUAL Breakdown

Above: A graphic depicting the number of people who got to jail and prison.


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