There were 5,500,600 adults in the U.S. correctional system at the end of 2020, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report published in late March 2022.
This is the lowest level since 1996, when 5,531,200 adults were in the system, and it continues more than a decade of population decline.
From 1981 to 2007, the U.S. correctional system population rose from 1,842,100 to 7,339,600, before beginning a steady decline. Over the last decade, the population has dropped 22.4%, or 1,588,400 people – reducing the incarceration rate from 960 to 660 per 100,000 adults.
The 2020 correctional population represents 2.1% of the total adult population of the U.S., down from 2.5% in 2019. Most people were in a community supervision program (3,890,400), while around one third (1,691,600) were in a prison or jail.
Of the total in community supervision, 3,053,700 were on probation and 862,100 were on parole. Of the total confined in a prison or jail, 1,215,800 were in a federal or state prison and 549,100 were in a local jail.