Number of People Serving Time in State and Federal Prisons in the US

"In 2020, the number of persons held in state or federal prisons in the United States declined 15%, from 1,430,200 at yearend 2019 to 1,215,800 at yearend 2020. Only Alaska showed an increase (2%) in its prison population, while other jurisdictions showed declines of 7% to 31%. The number of persons sentenced to more than 1 year in state or federal prison decreased from 1,379,800 in 2019 to 1,182,200 in 2020. The combined state and federal imprisonment rate for 2020 (358 per 100,000 U.S. residents) represented a decrease of 15% from 2019 (419 per 100,000 U.S. residents) and a decrease of 28% from 2010 (500 per 100,000 U.S. residents) (figure 1).

"The COVID-19 pandemic was largely responsible for the decline in prisoners under state and federal correctional authority. Courts significantly altered operations for part or all of 2020, leading to delays in trials and/or sentencing of persons, and this was reflected in the 40% decrease in admissions to state and federal prison from 2019. While the number of releases also declined during 2020, releases occurred at a slower rate (10%) than the decrease in admissions. Although deaths represented 1% of the total releases from prison in 2020, the number prisoners that died under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities in 2020 (6,100 prisoners) increased 46% from 2019 (4,200).

"From 2019 to 2020, the decline in the number of females sentenced to more than 1 year in prison (down 22%) outpaced the decrease in sentenced male prisoners (down 14%). Te imprisonment rates for U.S. residents in all racial or ethnic categories decreased by 12% to 16% from 2019 to 2020 and by at least 25% from 2010 to 2020 (fgure 2). Te imprisonment rate for black U.S. residents decreased 37%, from 1,489 per 100,000 in 2010 to 938 per 100,000 in 2020."


E. Ann Carson, PhD. Prisoners In 2020 - Statistical Tables. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2021, NCJ302776.