US Prison Population Continues Its Steady Decline

“You gotta pump those numbers up, those are rookie numbers!” - Mark Hanna, Wolf of Wall Street Movie

The population residing within the U.S.’s State and Federal Prisons dropped in the year 2016, as per the statistics released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics – BJS on Wednesday. This statistical data also shows that the decline in the national incarceration rate has dropped for a consecutive third year.

This drop in population in the prison also marks the lowest rates of imprisonments – measured as the obligation to a prison for more than one year – since the year 1997, where the rate was almost 450 prisoners on every 100,000 U.S. residents. The year 2016’s rate was as low as 444 prisoners.

As per an estimate, in 2016 there were lesser than 21,200 prisoners in both, state and federal jails, as compared to the prisoners in 2015, the report said. This drop in the population of the Federal Prisons, which is supervised by the Bureau of Prisons is alone accountable for a massive 34 percent of the decline experienced in 2016.

Furthermore, the admissions into the Prisons also saw a drop of 2300 people in 2016, when compared to 2015. The Federal system is also responsible for a massive decline in its share of 2200 lesser admissions in the Prison.

The decline in prison population includes all black, Hispanic, and white inmates.

“The rate of imprisonment decreased 4 percent for black adults (from 1,670 to 1,608 per 100,000), 2 percent for white adults (from 281 to 274 per 100,000) and 1 percent for adult Hispanic prisoners (from 862 to 856 per 100,000),” the BJS report read.

However, the differences in the total distribution of the Federal and State prison population is very significant. The Federal inmates are just a small proportion of the overall population in prisons. As per an initiative – the Prison Policy Initiative – the Federal prisoners are simply 9 percent of the total imprisoned population – inclusive of both, jails and prisons, in the year 2016.

As per the data released by the BJS, a majority – 54 percent – of the state level offenders were imprisoned for extreme violent offenses in 2016. Federal offenders were majorly held imprisoned for crimes like drug-trafficking and other drug-related offenses. Almost 99 percent of the drug-related offenses were for trafficking.

Another high concentration that was very noticeable was of the non-citizens in the Federal offenders – 21 percent in 2016, while exempting all those prisoners who were detained by the DHS. As per a recent report by the DHS – Department of Homeland Security – almost 94 percent of the proven non-citizens held in the federal custody were in the U.S. unlawfully.

This declining pattern is a reversal of the trends that began in the former President Obama’s era. The federal prison population saw a 5 percent fall from 2009 to 2015, as per the Pew Research analysis. The very first time a decline was experienced ever since Jimmy Carter.