U.S. Incarcerated Population Dropped Below 2 Million Last Year For First Time Since 2003
The total incarcerated population of the U.S. fell dramatically last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, dipping below 2 million for the first time since 2002, according to a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice.
The report found that the total number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails fell from 2.1 million in 2019 to 1.8 million in mid-2020, an unprecedented 13 percent decline. The total incarcerated population of the U.S. peaked in 2009 at a staggering 2.3 million.
Since 2009, the total incarcerated population has fallen as states passed a wave of bipartisan criminal justice reforms in response to exploding prison budgets, crumbling infrastructure, and an increasingly loud outcry over the human costs of mass incarceration.
The Vera Institute’s numbers track with other surveys of the U.S. criminal justice system. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported last year that the U.S incarceration rate fell in 2019 to its lowest level since 1994.
The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated this tre
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