During 2018, the total prison population in the USA declined from 1,489,200 to 1,465,200, a decrease of 24,000 prisoners, accounting for a 1.6% reduction. The number of male prisoners fell by 1.7%, to 1,354,313, while the number of female prisoners fell by 0.5%, to 110,845.
In 2018, the combined state and federal imprisonment rate was 431 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 US residents. This was the lowest ratio since 1996, which recorded 427 prisoners per 100,000 resident citizens.
During the last decade, the ratio has decreased by 15%, from 506 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 US residents in 2008 to 431 per 100,000 in 2018.
With regard to the imprisonment data for different ethnic groups, from 2008 to 2018, the imprisonment rate fell by 28% among black residents, 21% among Hispanics and 13% among whites. In 2018, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest since 1989. It’s important to note that, in 2018, the imprisonment rate of black males was 5.8 times that of white males, while the imprisonment rate of black females was 1.8 times the rate of white females.
At year-end 2018, a total of 22 states had imprisonment rates that were higher than the nationwide average. The state with the highest rate was Louisiana, with 695 per 100,000 state residents, followed by Oklahoma, with 693 per 100,000, and Mississippi, with 626 per 100,000 inhabitants. On the other hand, states such as Minnesota, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont had less than 200 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 residents.
Among the total number of prisoners held in the US in 2018, 7.7% of them were non-US citizens, a similar figure to the 6.9% of non-US citizens present in the country according to the US Census Bureau. With regard to age, more than 3% of prisoners were over 64 years old.
It’s worth noting that among the military prisoners who had served in the US Air force or the US Navy, almost 75% were in prison for a sexual offence. And 45% of those were serving time for a violent sexual offence.
In relation to reasons for imprisonment and ethnicity, 61% of the black and Hispanic prison communities and 48% of the white prison community were serving time for a violent offence. Concurrently, 23% of sentenced white prisoners are serving time for crimes against property, while among Hispanic and black inmates, the figure is 13%. Around 15% of prisoners are serving time for public health disorders –4% for possession–, with percentages ranging from 13% of black prisoners to 16% of whites.
Lastly, 67% of prison admissions in 2018 came from new court commitments, while 30% were due to post-custody supervision violations. The remaining 3% can be attributed to other causes, such as readmissions.