Last Updated: May 1st, 2020 at 5:17 pm
Year after year, the United States surpasses much larger countries for having the highest incarceration rate in the world. Over the last forty years, the U.S. has seen a 500% increase in incarceration rates. The U.S. prison population has grown to such an extent, that it could be the equivalent of the population in one of the country’s ten largest cities. Incarceration in South Florida is even more surprising, with over 176,000 residents behind bars as of 2018.
Incarceration Statistics in the U.S.
Currently, the American criminal justice system holds 2.3 million people, scattered across 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails. Not to mention, the additional individuals housed within military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in U.S. territories.
The U.S. has the highest incarcerated population per capita in the world, with a staggering 689 per 100,000 residents behind bars. The latest reports break down the number of people incarcerated as follows:
- State prisons: 1,306,000
- Local jails: 612,000
- Federal prisons & jails: 221,000
- Juvenile correctional facilities: 46,000
- Immigration detention: 61,000
- Civil commitment centers: 22,000
- Territorial prisons: 11,000
- Indian Country: 2,500
- Military: 1,300
Every year, more than 600,000 individuals enter prison gates, but people actually go to jail 10.6 million times each year. This happens because most people in jails have not been convicted of any crimes; most of them have been arrested and will make bail within hours.
Over 540,000 people go through what’s known as pretrial detention, meaning they’re placed behind bars without being convicted or sentenced. Pretrial detention is a culprit of local jails since most of those detained cannot pay the bail amount set to secure their release. Unfortunately, pretrial detention policies have been responsible for net jail growth in the last 20 years.
Racial Disparities in Incarceration
The racial disparities in Florida, as well as in the nation, are undeniably staggering. In a nutshell, the white population is well underrepresented in the incarcerated population, while the black community is highly over-represented.
According to the latest census, the U.S. population was: 64% white, 13% black, 13% Latino, and 0.9% native. However, the correctional population shows quite the disparities, with 39% white, 40% black, 19% Latino, and 1% Native American incarcerated. This proves whites are underrepresented in the incarcerated population, while blacks and Latinos are over-represented.
In Florida, racial and ethnic disparities are even more noticeable. According to the latest census, the Florida population was: 58% white, 23% Latino, and 16% black. However, the prison/jail population breakdown was: 46% black, 41% white, and 14% Latino.
These statistics include incarcerated populations in all types of correctional facilities in the state of Florida, including federal and state prisons, local jails, halfway homes, etc.
Since the beginning of the war on drugs in 1982, the United States started sending more people to prison. The number of people incarcerated for drug charges went from 40,900 in the 1980s to 450,345 by 2016—that’s a 1,001% increase.
Sadly, the incarceration rate for drug offenses is not slowing down. In the U.S., every day, 451,000 individuals, or 1 in every 5, are incarcerated for nonviolent drug-related crimes. There are 6 times as many arrests for drug possession as for drug sales, with over 1 million arrests happening each year. Drug incarcerations are scattered across state prisons, local jails, federal prisons, youth facilities, and military prisons.
Many believe drug arrests only give residents of over-policed communities’ extensive criminal records, hurting their chances of employment, housing, and progress, while increasing the likelihood of having longer sentences for future offenses. Those in favor of reforming the criminal justice system believe strategies such as investing in social services and finding community-based alternatives to incarceration can help end mass incarceration related to nonviolent drug offenses.
Florida Incarceration Statistics
Alone, the state of Florida’s incarceration rates by far exceed those of entire countries, including the U.S. itself. In Florida, as of 2018, the incarceration rate was 833 per 100,000 individuals. The next one to follow is the United States with an incarceration rate of 698, the United Kingdom with 139, Portugal with 129, and Canada with 114.
As of today, there are 176,000 Florida residents behind bars. The majority of them (99,000) are in state prisons, followed by 53,000 in local jails, and 19,000 federal prisons. Much like in the rest of the country, Florida’s prison and jail incarceration rates have increased at a staggering rate in the past 40 years going from under 150 in the 1970s to over 450 in 2014.
Florida Prison Population StatisticsHowever, Florida’s criminal justice system is more than just prisons and jails. 391,000 Florida residents are under criminal justice supervision or behind bars. Florida’s criminal justice system has people in:
- Probation: 211,000
- State prisons: 99,000
- Local jails: 53,000
- Federal prisons: 19,000
- Parole: 4,400
- Youth centers: 2,900
- Involuntary commitment centers: 2,100
- Adjusting the state’s felony theft threshold, which hasn’t been changed since the '80s.
- Allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking charges.
- Allow inmates to earn more time off their sentences if they earn a diploma or participate in entrepreneurship programs.