Friday, November 30, 2012

National incarceration rates continue modest declines

Grits didn't notice any particularly groundbreaking revelations related to Texas corrections, but readers may be interested to learn of two official new reports from the federal Bureau of Justice Staistics: Correctional Populations in the United States, 2011; and Probation and Parole in the United States, 2011. Here are a few national  highlights from the summary in the first report:
  • Adult correctional authorities supervised about 6,977,700 offenders at yearend 2011, a decrease of
    1.4% during the year. [Ed note: That's mostly due to declines in probation and parole caseloads.]
  • The decline of 98,900 offenders during 2011 marked the third consecutive year of decrease in the correctional population, which includes probationers, parolees, local jail inmates, and prisoners in the custody of state and federal facilities.
  • About 2.9% of adults in the U.S. (or 1 in every 34 adults) were under some form of correctional supervision at yearend 2011, a rate comparable to 1998 (1 in every 34).
Meanwhile, from the report on probation and parole,
  • The number of adults under community supervision declined by about 71,300 during 2011, down to 4,814,200 at yearend.
  • A 2% decline in the probation population along with a 1.6% increase in the parole population accounted for the overall change in the community supervision population.
  • At yearend 2011, for the first time since 2002, the U.S. probation population fell below 4 million.
  • The rate of incarceration among probationers at risk for violating their conditions of supervision in 2011 (5.5%) was consistent with the rate in 2000 (5.5%).
  • Among parolees at risk for violating their conditions of supervision, about 12% were reincarcerated during 2011, down from more than 15% in 2006.
Overall, the number of people incarcerated nationally declined at the state and local levels, though federal incarceration continued to rise:
During 2011, less than half (43%) of the decrease in the incarcerated population (down 30,400 inmates) was attributed to the decline in the local jail population (down 13,100). In comparison, more than half (57%) of the decrease in the incarcerated population was due to the decline in the number of persons in the custody of state and federal prisons (down 17,300).3 All of the decrease in the total prison population was due to the decline in the number of prisoners held in the custody of state facilities (down 25,100 prisoners or 1.9%),including privately operated facilities under state authority (appendix table 1).

The increase in the number of prisoners held in the custody of federal facilities (up 7,800 or 3.8%) partially offset the decline in the total prison population during the year. The growth in the federal prison population during 2011 was lead by an increase in the number of federal prisoners held in privately operated facilities under federal authority (up 4,600 or 18.2%).
Despite the slight decline in prisoner number witnessed in the last three years, however, nationwide America incarcerated 13.1% more people in 2011 (more than 174,000, overall) than it did in 2001, according to the BJS.

Texas' state data won't surprise regular Grits readers. Probation rolls declined by 10,000 last year due to a combination of declining crime and expanded use of early release provisions from Texas' 2007 probation reforms. Meanwhile, a slight uptick in parole rates increased the number of parolees by about 1,800 compared to 2010.

These are tentatively positive trends toward deincarceration, but really mere baby steps compared to the true scope of US overincarceration. Still, as my father like to say, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye.


Prison Doc said...

It's good to read about deincarceration trends, and hope they continue and blossom for Texas. But it is hard--indeed impossible--to think that these trends will significantly help prison budgetary problems here.

In the Texas prison system we need a financial quantum leap--not a nice trend. To solve the financial deficits in prisoner care, infrastructure, rolling stock, medical costs and security salaries--an unimaginable financial windfall must occur. I don't think they can release people fast enough to make a difference, but I hope it will at least be part of managing the problem.

JJ said...

What we need now is a good drive-thru court system and presto! Think of the efficiency!