The share of the adult population in prison has fallen to its lowest point since 1997, a new report released in April 2019 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows.
To be sure, the United States does lead the world in per capita incarceration (although such counts tend to ignore political or religious prisoners, like the more than 100,000 Uyghurs likely being held in prison camps in northwestern China). However, the new BJS report paints a picture of a system that is shrinking, growing more racially equitable, and which mostly detains serious, violent offenders, not petty drug users.
The incarceration rate peaked in 2007, at about 670 inmates per 100,000 American adults. As of the most recent data, it has fallen by about 15 percent, to 568 inmates per 100,000.
The report reveals further good news for advocates of prison reform: Much of that decline has been among the black, and to a lesser extent Hispanic, prison populations. Exposure to the criminal justice system can have serious negative effects on a person’s life course, and is a major determinant of black men’s chances of achieving middle class stability.
The total picture the BJS report paints of the U.S. prison system departs substantially from that frequently depicted in the mainstream media. Although still quite large, the prison population has been shrinking for a decade; racial disparities in incarceration are closing; and the lion’s share of incarcerees that remain are detained for serious, often violent offenses, not for possessing a dime-bag of marijuana.
From The Washington Free Beacon.