Understanding the scale of mass incarceration

Thanks to the folks at Prison Policy Initiative for putting together this comprehensive chart on the breakdown of how many people are locked up in the United States.

pie chart showing the number of people locked up on a given day in the United States by facility type and, where available, the underlying offense

“This methodology exposes some disturbing facts, particularly about our juvenile justice system. For example, there are almost 15,000 children behind bars whose ‘most serious offense’ wasn’t anything that most people would consider a crime: almost 12,000 children are behind bars for “technical violations” of the requirements of their probation or parole, rather than for a new specific offense. More than 3,000 children are behind bars for ‘status’ offenses, which are, as the U.S. Department of Justice explains: ‘behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.'”

Equally important to keep in mind are the enormous numbers of people on parole and probation in this country. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, there are 3,981,090 adults on probation, and 851,662 adults on parole.

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