2 Bureau of Justice Statistics Reports – Prisoners, 2013; Victimization, 2013; Lead & Violence

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released 2 reports recently about the prison population and victimization.

There have been a plethora of articles about this data that are very interesting, including two papers by Rick Nevins, a researcher  who has been studying the link between lead poisoning and violent crime.


Confounding Critics, Nation’s Prison Population Rises
Ted Gest, The Crime Report, Sept. 16, 2014

“Breaking a four-year trend, the nation’s prison population rose again last year, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today.


“Given that crime rates overall are down, the continuing large numbers being sent to prison indicate that many mandatory prison sentence laws remain in effect, and efforts to provide alternatives to incarceration are yet to take hold widely in many places.

“This increase is a clear sign that we’re not doing what it takes to reduce our incarceration,” (…)”


New BJS figures show that mass incarceration is getting bigger
Peter Wagner and Leah Sakala, Prison Policy Initiative, September 16, 2014

“This morning, the criminal justice policy world got a new key metric on mass incarceration in the U.S.: the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ national update, Prisoners in 2013. This report serves as a sobering reminder that state-level criminal justice policy decisions are continuing to ensure that our nation remains the top incarcerator in the world. While the report indicates a few promising improvements, the overall picture is grim.

“Key takeaways from the report:

  • Overall, the state and federal prison population increased slightly between 2012 and 2013. Although this is the first overall increase since 2009, the overall prison population has held fairly steady compared to the rapid rise of earlier decades.
  • The number of people incarcerated in California increased. In the past several years, in response to a Supreme Court mandate, California’s prison population declined enough to pull the national incarceration rate down.
  • While the total number of people incarcerated grew, the country as a whole grew faster, so there was a slight decline of less than half of a percent in the incarceration rate. This change is far too small to impact the results of our June report States of Incarceration: The Global Context finding that every state in this country uses incarceration far more than most of the world.

 “Here’s the good news:

  • For the first time, the federal prison population reported a decline. Over the last decade, the federal Bureau of Prisons had been reporting a growth rate more than 4 times faster than the states, so this is a significant change in direction.
  • Some states continue consistent declines in their prison population: New York and New Jersey have declined populations every year but one since 1999, Hawaii has declined for eight years in a row, and South Carolina 4 years in a row.
  • 21 states reported declines in their sentenced prison population
  • 10 states that had reported growing prison populations for both 2011 and 2012 reported a decline in 2013.

 “And the bad news:

  • Reversing 3 years of declining populations, the total prison population increased.
  • The number of admissions to prison increased and the number of releases fell in 2013. Each are a bad sign and the combination of both is particularly harmful.
  • Racial disparities continue to constitute the defining characteristic of the prison system. For example, 3% of Black males of all ages are currently incarcerated in state or federal prisons. This is a rate 6 times higher than white males.
  • 14 states hit new record high prison populations in 2013: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • Texas, one of the states with the highest incarceration rates and which had a much heralded “reform” of its prison population, saw an increase in both its total prison population, its sentenced population, and its incarceration rate.

“And remember, this new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics is just talking about the state and federal prison population, which form just a portion of the much larger incarceration pie of which jails are the next largest piece.”


States of Incarceration: The Global Context World Incarceration Rates If Every U.S. State Were A Country

  • Hawai`i would be 49th of  220 US states and countries in the world with an imprisoned  population of 417 per 100,000.


The United States Has The Largest Prison Population In The World — And It’s Growing
Nicole Flatow, ThinkProgress, Sept. 17, 2014

“But it’s not all bad news. In just the federal prisons, the population actually dropped for the first time since 1980. Some experts attributed this to decreased priority on marijuana arrests, as states move toward decriminalization or legalization, and federal authorities shift their resources elsewhere.


“The proportion of inmates held in private prisons actually decreased 3 percent in 2013, after a few states ended their relationships with private prisons entirely. Private prisons now house some 8 percent of the U.S. prison population. The industry, however, has more than made up for its loss in the prison industry with its share of federal immigration detention, and its entry into other criminal justice industries like rehabilitation.”


In 2013 the State Prison Population Rose for the First Time Since 2009
Federal prison population declined for first time since 1980
News Release from Bureau of Justice Statistics September 16, 2014

“WASHINGTON – U.S. state and federal prisons held an estimated 1,574,700 inmates on December 31, 2013, an increase of 4,300 prisoners over yearend 2012, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. This was the first increase in the state prison population reported since 2009.

“While the state prison population increased by about 6,300 during 2013, the federal prison population decreased by approximately 1,900 inmates. This was the first decline in the federal prison population since 1980.

“Prisoners sentenced to more than a year in state or federal prison increased by 5,400 persons from yearend 2012 to yearend 2013. States added 6,900 sentenced inmates in 2013, while the number of sentenced federal inmates decreased by 1,500.

“The number of sentenced prisoners grew in 27 states, including three of the four states with the largest prison populations: Texas (up 2 percent), California (up 1 percent) and Florida (up 1 percent). Sentenced prisoners in Georgia, the state with the fourth largest prison population, decreased by 1 percent in 2013. Hawaii, Idaho and Kentucky each imprisoned 5 percent fewer sentenced prisoners at yearend 2013 than at yearend 2012.”


BJS: Violent Crime Declined in 2013
Ted Gest, September 18, 2014

“The nation’s violent crime rate declined slightly last year after two years of increases, the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics said today in its annual victimization survey.”


Prisoners in 2013: The News Media Buries the Lead
Rick Nevin

“The Answer is Lead Poisoning.”

Very interesting, yes?

Mahalo for caring about all of Hawai`i’s people serving sentences near and far. Please also remember their families – the invisibly incarcerated.


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