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Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023 (PPI, 2023) 

03-15-2023 09:25 AM

The Prison Policy Initiative released Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023. This report - as you know if you've read previous "Whole Pie" reports - pieces together the most recent national data on state prisons, federal prisons, local jails, and other systems of confinement to provide a snapshot of mass incarceration in the United States. 

Highlights from the report include: 

  • Prison populations are starting to rebound. Although prison populations are still lower than they've been in decades, prison populations are beginning to increase as pandemic-related slowdowns in the criminal legal system are no longer driving down prison admissions. Additionally, officials continue to release fewer people from prison than before the pandemic.
  • Recent claims about increasing crime are not supported by data. Crime rates remain at near historic lows. However, some in law enforcement and on the right have sought to blame changes to the criminal legal system - such as bail reform, changes to police budgets, or electing "progressive" prosecutors - for increases in some crime rates since the start of the pandemic. However, these claims are not supported by the evidence: murder rates were an average of 40% higher in "red" states compared to blue states in 2020, police budgets have recently increased in the vast majority of cities and counties in the country, and places that did not implement any of these reforms also saw increases in crime rates.  
  • In total, roughly 1.9 million people are incarcerated in the United States, 803,000 people are on parole, and a staggering 2.9 million people are on probation.

The report includes 30 visualizations of criminal justice data, exposing other long-standing truths about incarceration in the U.S.:

  • The U.S. continues to lock up hundreds of thousands of people pretrial, and therefore legally innocent, every day. 
  • Black people are still overrepresented behind bars, making up about 38% of the prison and jail population and only 12% of U.S. residents.
  • Harsh sentences don't deter violent crime, and most victims don't support them. Contrary to popular narratives, most victims of violence prefer investments in violence prevention and alternative ways of holding people accountable rather than more incarceration. 
  • At least 113 million adults in the U.S. (roughly 45%) have a family member who has been incarcerated, and 79 million people have a criminal record, revealing the ripple effects of locking up millions of people every day.

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