US Criminal Justice System

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 1-11-12

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 1-11-12.

Question of the Week: How many people are under the control of the U.S. criminal justice system?

An April 2011 report by the Justice Policy Institute begins by stating,

“The United States is home to the world’s largest prison population. … the U.S. has only 5 percent of the world’s population but holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners …”

There are several components to the U.S. criminal justice system. Quoting the Institute,

“The entry point into the criminal justice system is typically through law enforcement. … In the U.S., when a person is charged with an offense they may be detained in jail until their trial or they may be released to await their trial in the community through a variety of mechanisms … people are said to be “remanded,” which is a summons to appear before a judge at a later date. If they are not released pretrial they can be “remanded to custody” until their court proceeding; if they are convicted, they can be remanded to custody prior to sentencing or during an appeal process … Pretrial detention is associated with a higher likelihood of both being found guilty and receiving a sentence of incarceration over probation, thus forcing a person further into the criminal justice system. In the United States, this is particularly important because of the sheer numbers”

What are those numbers?

In 2010 there were approximately:

4,000,000 people on probation

840,000 on parole

207,000 in federal prison

1,300,000 in state prison

and 749,000 in local jails

For a total of 7,100,000 people under the control of the U.S. Criminal Justice system.

These facts and others like them can be found in the “U.S. Corrections Population” Table in  Prisons & Jails Chapter of Drug War Facts at