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Will 'Fear-Mongering' About Crime Lead to Prison, Jail Population Rise?

.While the COVID pandemic has led to drops in many states' incarceration rates, without policy changes, the reductions will almost certainly be short-lived, says the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI). The organization published new charts on corrections issues including jail suicides, racial disparities and probation.

On the federal side, the number of inmates is increasing again. The total stood at 157,021 as of Thursday,, compared with 155,562 in 2020. It has been much higher in the past, more than 219,000 in 2013.

The total of 1.9 million people locked up by various confinement systems is almost 400,000 fewer people than were locked up before the pandemic.

PPI says that "fear-mongering about upticks in certain specific crimes may ... lead to policy changes that make mass incarceration even more intractable."

The latest numbers on racial disparities in corrections show that Black people constitute 13 percent of the U.S. population but 38 percent of people in jails and prisons.

In jails, suicide is the single leading cause of death, a fact that isn’t surprising considering research that shows incarceration is inherently bad for a person’s mental health. A jail inmate is more than three times as likely to die from suicide as someone in the general U.S. population.

As a result of high cash bail amounts, suspects often are held in local jails for weeks, months, or even years before they are convicted of a crime.

After eventual release from prison, they often remain under state supervision through parole for years, living with the threat of being jailed for a technical violation.

Pretrial detention is the driver of jail population growth over the last 20 years. About half of all people under correctional control are on probation.

Despite recent pandemic-related reductions in these numbers, they’re likely to increase as pandemic slowdowns ease, says PPI..


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