U.S. Incarceration Rate Down to 1998 Levels


An analysis of federal Bureau of Justice Statistics data by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the United States incarceration rate fell 13 percent from 2007 to 2015.

The incarceration rate, which includes people in state and federal prisons and local jails, dropped from a peak of 1 in 100 American adults in 2007-08 to 1 in 115 , the lowest level since 1998. Pew notes it is still more than three times higher than it was for most of the 20th century.

The rate of adults under community supervision, including federal, state, and local probation and parole, declined 17 percent, from 1 in 45 to 1 in 53, during the same period. That decrease brought the total rate of adults under correctional control down from 1 in 31 (approximatly 7.3 million people) in 2007 to 1 in 37 (about 6.7 million) at the end of 2015.

More than 33 states¬†have revised sentencing and corrections laws since 2007, and these reforms “have cut incarceration rates without negatively affecting public safety.” In fact, a study released last month¬†showed that crime rates fell 15 percent while imprisonment fell 8 percent nationwide, and crime rates dropped faster from 2010-2015 in the states with the larger prison rate declines.

The report concludes that “these tandem trends demonstrate that states can have less imprisonment and less crime at the same time.”

There are still 6.7 million adults under correctional control in the U.S.