Vera Institute of Justice unveils updated website on incarceration trends


Media contact: Brittany Murphy, 508-826-2817, [email protected]

New York, NY (December 16, 2021): The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) today announced a new updated version of its Incarceration Trends Website, which now includes analysis of more than five decades of data on local and state prisons at the national, national and regional levels. The updated site brings many current data points to spring 2021 and represents the most comprehensive snapshot yet of the growth of mass incarceration in states, counties and urban-to-rural geographies.

“The Incarceration Trends project highlights that the harms of mass incarceration have been inflicted unevenly in the United States,” said Jasmine Heiss, project director, In Our Backyards, at the Vera Institute of Justice. “Even after an unprecedented decline, the human and social cost of incarceration in the United States remains dire. Blacks, natives and Latinxes and the poor of all races and ethnicities are disproportionately criminalized and incarcerated. These trends are most pronounced in the country’s rural counties.

The country’s largest cities once had the highest incarceration rates, but in recent decades prison incarcerations and state prison admissions have declined in major metropolitan areas as they have increased rapidly. in small towns and rural communities. Today in the United States, about two in three people in local jails have not been convicted of a felony – many are being held in civil cases, such as those in pre-trial incarceration on criminal charges. immigration or those who cannot pay child support or fines. and fees. The updated analysis presented in Incarceration trends points out that the disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of blacks and other people of color is also more pronounced in rural counties, as is the increase in the incarceration of women.

The newly visualized data also shows the rebound in prison incarceration after an unprecedented 14% drop in incarceration in the first half of 2020 (bringing the total incarcerated population from 2.1 million to 1.8 million people) in response to the spread of COVID-19. In the spring of 2021, decarcerations in state prisons were at a standstill and the prison population continued to increase.

Incarceration trends provides an overview of the pages at the national, state, and departmental level, allowing users to compare department-level data to state and national trends. the website understand :

  • analysis of the race, ethnicity and gender of people in prisons and prisons nationwide;

  • visualizations of incarceration trends in major subways, small towns, suburbs and rural communities;

  • rankings of all counties in a given state based on incarceration rate and incarceration growth;

  • a visualization of the prison population for each county, representing the most recent data available on the proportion of people detained before trial, sentenced and held on behalf of other authorities, including state corrections and federal agencies;

  • the possibility of switching between the average number of people detained in a prison each day and the incarceration rate, taking into account variations in the resident population; and

  • data on regional prison systems serving several counties.

New Incarceration trends website shows both the significant increase in prison incarcerations across the urban and rural spectrum since 1970 and the more recent divergence in incarceration trends, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationally, the incarceration rate of people in local prisons fell by 26% between the end of 2019 and mid-2020. However, prison incarceration had rebounded strongly in the spring of 2021.

Given the drastic change in the geography of incarceration over the past several decades, it is not surprising that recent changes in incarceration have been very different across rural, suburban, small town, and large metropolitan areas. Rural areas still have the highest prison incarceration rates by far, with more than half of those incarcerated in local prisons being held outside the country’s largest cities.

At the end of March 2021, the outlines of the emerging “new normal” included an overall reduction in prisons and prison terms. However, in many ways the changes in prisons and prison populations reflect a deepening of pre-existing political, economic and social orientations towards punishment and detention. Most states that had higher incarceration rates in early 2020 saw smaller declines in incarceration through spring 2021. At the federal level, neither the Biden administration nor Congress have taken action to reflect this. a commitment to sustainable decarceration. As prisons fill up, state-wide reforms of pre-trial justice, surveillance and sentencing, as well as local efforts to reduce criminalization, are urgently needed.


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