The U.S. prison population decreased from 2020 to 2021, while the jail population increased, according to reports published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in late-December 2022.
At the end of 2021, there were 1,204,300 people in U.S. prisons, a 1% decline from 2020 and the eighth year in a row that the population has declined. Since 2011, the prison population has declined 30%.
By contrast, the jail population increased 16% to 636,300 in 2021. The jail population was relatively stable from 2011 to 2019, with an average daily population of 735,511, before declining sharply from 2019 to 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then increasing again from 2020 to 2021.
Racial disparities remain in incarceration rates. The jai incarceration rate for Blacks in 2021 was 3.4 times higher than that of whites, while the prison incarceration rate for Blacks in 2021 was five times higher than that of whites.
“Among racial and ethnic groups, black persons had the highest imprisonment rate in 2021 (1,186 per 100,000 adult black residents), followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives (1,004 per 100,000), Hispanics (619 per 100,00), whites (222 per 100,000) and Asians (90 per 100,000),” according to a BJS press release. “Compared to 2011, adult imprisonment rates declined for all racial and ethnic groups in 2021, including a 40% decrease for black persons, 37% for Hispanics, 34% for Asians, 27% for whites, and 26% for American Indian/Alaska Natives.”
An estimated 75.8% of the U.S. population was white in July 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while white inmates comprised 31% of U.S. prison inmates and 49% of jail inmates in 2021.
By comparison, Hispanics comprised 18.9% of the national population, 24% of the prison population and 14% of the jail population in 2021, while Blacks were 13.6%, 32% and 35% (respectively), Asians, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders were 6.4%, 1% and 1% (respectively), and American Indian and Alaskan Natives were 1.3%, 2% and 1% (respectively).