Young Adults in Jail or Prison

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After rising most years since 2006, the number of young adults ages 18 to 29 in prison or jail fell by 11 percent between 2008 and 2009, to reach 778,200.

Importance

Spending time in prison or jail can have profound effects on a young person’s future.  High rates of recidivism mean that many youth, once in the prison system, will stay there for significant portions of their lives. Up to one-third of incarcerated youth return to jail or prison within a few years after release.[1] However, some positive life experiences, including employment,[2] marriage,[3] parenthood,[4] job stability,[5] and high school graduation are associated with a successful turnaround in young adulthood.[6]There are particular concerns that certain sub-groups of youth are disproportionately incarcerated. These disparities may also be reflected in arrests, court representation, convictions, or sentencing.[7]

Youth who have been incarcerated experience diminished income in comparison with their non-incarcerated peers.  In addition, they may suffer earnings losses of between 10 and 30 percent for up to ten years after their release.[8] Economic hardship, in turn, is associated with lower levels of mental well-being, physical health, social attachments, and a lower life expectancy.[9]

Given these negative outcomes, it is especially troubling that there are disproportionate rates of imprisonment among young, already disadvantaged, minority men.  According to one estimate, on a typical day in 2000 approximately one in three young, black, male high school dropouts were in prison or jail.[10]

Trends

89_fig1The estimated total number of young adults ages 18 to 29 in prison or jails increased steadily from 745,200 in 1999, to 813,600 in 2002. It rose to a high of 865,400 in 2006, then began to decline, most markedly in 2009. As of 2010, the population was 779,700. (Figure 1) The recent decline means that the percentage of young people in jail or prison is the smallest it has been since records are first available, in 1999. (Appendix 2)

 

 

 

Differences by Gender

A much higher percentage of male youth are in prison or jail than are female youth. Among youth ages 18 to 19 in 2010, men were almost 16 times more likely than women to be in jail or prison (1.5 percent of men, and 0.1 percent of women). Among youth ages 20 to 24 in 2010, men were 11 times more likely than women to be in jail or prison (2.8 percent of men, and 0.3 percent of women). This gap had been growing steadily smaller until 2010, when it increased. (Appendix 2)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[11]

89_fig2There are stark racial disparities in the population of incarcerated youth. Among the estimated717,800men ages 18 to 29 who were incarcerated at midyear 2010, 37 percent (290,100) were black and 23 percent (180,400) were Hispanic. (Figure 2) Among men, a higher proportion of blacks are incarcerated at any age than are men of other races. For example, in 2010, among men ages 20 to 24, 8.0 percent of blacks were incarcerated, followed by 3.3 percent of Hispanics and 1.3 percent of whites. (Figure 3)

89_fig3Among women, a higher percentage of blacks are incarcerated than are women of other races, although racial/ethnic differences among women are smaller than among men. Among young adult women ages 20 to 24 in 2010, 0.4 percent of blacks were incarcerated, followed by 0.3 percent of Hispanics, and 0.2 percent of whites. (Figure 3)

 

 

 

 

State and Local Estimates

Numbers of youth (under age 18) in the custody of state and federal prisons, by state in 2011, are available in Prisoners in 2011, published by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (Appendix Table 16).

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data provides state and local estimates of youth arrests. This information can be found in the yearly Crime in the United States reports.

International Estimates

None available.

National Goals

None.

What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator

Child Trends' LINKS database of evaluated programs identifies the following as showing impact on reducing or preventing incarceration of young adults:

Also see: Greenwood, P. (2008). Prevention and intervention programs for juvenile offenders. The Future of Children, 18(2), 185-210. Available at:http://www.futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/18_02_09.pdf

Related Indicators

Definition

Young adults ages 18 to 29 in the custody of a state or federal prison or a local jail are included in these estimates. To be considered "in custody" the prisoner must be confined in one of the facilities of the prison or jail. Prisoners under a state's jurisdiction (i.e., where the state has legal authority but not physical custody) are not included in these estimates. 

Data Sources

Data for 2010: Child trends analysis of data provided by Paul Guerino, U.S. Department of Justice, personal communication, March 6, 2012. and U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, National Intercensal Estimates (2000-2010), found at http://www.census.gov/popest/data/intercensal/national/nat2010.html

Data for 2009:West, H. (2010). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2009(No. NCJ 230113). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2008:West, H., & Sabol, W.J. (2009). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2008(No. NCJ 225619). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2007: Sabol W.J., & Couture, H. (2008).Prison inmates at midyear 2007(No. NCJ 221944).Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2006:Sabol, W. J., Minton, T. D., & Harrison, P. M. (2007). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2006. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2005:Harrison, P. M., & Beck, A. J. (2006). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2005 (No. NCJ 213133). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2004:Harrison, P. M., & Beck, A. J. (2005). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2004. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2003:Harrison, P. M., & Karberg, J. C. (2004). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2003 (No. NCJ 203947). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2002:Harrison, P. M., & Karberg, J. C. (2003). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2002 (No. NCJ 198877). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2001:Beck, A. J., Karberg, J. C., & Harrison, P. M. (2002). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2001 (No. NCJ 191702). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 2000:Beck, A. J., & Karberg, J. C. (2001). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2000 (No. NCJ 185989). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Data for 1999:Beck, A. J. (2000). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 1999 (No. NCJ 181643). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

Raw Data Source

National Prisoners Statistics, reported in the National Corrections Reporting Program available online at: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/series/38

Annual Survey of Jails: Jurisdiction-level data available online at:

http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/series/7

 

Appendix 1 - Number of Young Adults in State or Federal Prison and Local Jails, By Gender, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age, 1999-2010

1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 20101
Age 18-19 82,300 85,200 88,300 83,000 76,500 77,700 78,541 80,500 92,100 91,800 72,400 73,000
Male2 78,600 81,300 84,200 78,800 72,200 73,200 73,891 75,600 86,600 86,300 68,200 68,700
Non-Hispanic white 24,400 26,200 27,400 23,100 23,500 24,300 24,141 24,800 27,100 26,500 21,100 20,100
Non-Hispanic black 35,300 36,700 37,800 35,800 32,600 33,000 32,139 33,000 36,500 37,100 29,400 28,200
Hispanic 16,000 15,600 15,700 16,100 13,300 13,600 14,428 15,300 17,700 18,400 14,300 14,800
Female2 3,700 3,900 4,100 4,200 4,300 4,500 4,651 4,900 5,500 5,500 4,200 4,200
Non-Hispanic white 1,700 1,900 2,000 1,800 1,700 1,800 1,916 2,000 2,300 2,200 1,800 1,800
Non-Hispanic black 1,400 1,400 1,400 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,515 1,600 1,500 1,500 1,400 900
Hispanic 500 500 500 900 1,000 1,000 1,072 1,200 1,300 1,300 1,000 1,100
Age 20-24 317,400 329,700 347,900 363,000 371,600 378,900 385,237 395,300 384,300 383,900 331,000 337,900
Male2 298,600 310,100 326,900 340,900 346,200 352,000 356,977 365,700 353,300 353,100 318,800 311,200
Non-Hispanic white 91,400 99,500 104,700 97,000 102,700 107,300 106,956 111,100 108,200 104,000 92,300 85,200
Non-Hispanic black 136,200 142,800 151,400 159,700 161,300 161,900 154,476 160,000 145,600 148,500 135,000 129,000
Hispanic 62,000 60,000 61,900 73,200 73,800 74,500 80,171 84,900 80,100 83,300 76,600 76,300
Female2 18,800 19,600 21,000 22,100 25,400 26,900 28,261 29,600 31,000 30,800 26,700 26,700
Non-Hispanic white 7,200 8,300 9,100 9,600 11,000 12,000 13,018 13,900 14,200 13,900 12,200 12,600
Non-Hispanic black 7,200 7,400 7,700 7,500 8,900 9,100 8,907 9,300 9,000 9,000 8,800 6,400
Hispanic 3,900 3,500 3,800 4,500 4,900 5,200 5,388 5,900 6,100 6,300 5,600 5,300
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 20101
Age 25-29 345,500 359,900 372,100 367,600 358,300 366,700 379,450 389,600 386,100 386,600 374,800 368,800
Male2 316,800 329,900 340,000 340,800 332,300 339,600 350,522 359,300 354,100 354,600 360,800 337,900
Non-Hispanic white 96,000 104,900 110,000 97,800 93,000 97,700 99,467 103,700 106,200 99,900 101,100 94,900
Non-Hispanic black 152,200 160,200 163,600 161,600 154,000 155,600 150,401 156,200 143,400 148,400 149,700 132,900
Hispanic 59,600 58,400 59,200 72,000 78,400 78,700 85,899 90,800 83,900 87,100 90,800 89,300
Female2 28,700 30,000 31,300 26,800 26,000 27,100 28,928 30,300 32,000 32,000 30,400 30,900
Non-Hispanic white 9,600 11,200 12,000 10,200 10,900 11,700 12,745 13,700 14,500 14,200 14,000 14,300
Non-Hispanic black 13,200 13,500 13,700 10,500 9,800 9,900 9,666 10,100 10,000 10,100 10,700 7,900
Hispanic 4,700 4,000 4,100 4,700 4,700 4,700 5,073 5,600 5,700 6,000 5,800 5,900
1Data source used to estimate race and Hispanic origin changed in 2010. Use caution when comparing to prior years. Detailed categories exclude persons who reported two or more races.2Includes races/ethnicities not shown separately: American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.Sources: Data for 1999: Beck, A. J. (2000). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 1999 (No. NCJ 181643). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2000: Beck, A. J., & Karberg, J. C. (2001). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2000 (No. NCJ 185989). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2001: Beck, A. J., Karberg, J. C., & Harrison, P. M. (2002). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2001 (No. NCJ 191702). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2002: Harrison, P. M., & Karberg, J. C. (2003). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2002 (No. NCJ 198877). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2003: Harrison, P. M., & Karberg, J. C. (2004). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2003 (No. NCJ 203947). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2004: Harrison, P. M., & Beck, A. J. (2005). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2004. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2005: Harrison, P. M., & Beck, A. J. (2006). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2005 (No. NCJ 213133). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2006: Sabol, W. J., Minton, T. D., & Harrison, P. M. (2007). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2006. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2007: Sabol W.J., & Couture, H. (2008). Prison inmates at midyear 2007 (No. NCJ 221944). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2008: West, H., & Sabol, W.J. (2009). Prison inmates at midyear 2008 (No. NCJ 225619).Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2009: West, H. (2010). Prison inmates at midyear 2009 (No. NCJ 230113).Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2010: U.S. Department of Justice, Paul Guerino, personal communication, March 6, 2012.

 

Appendix 2 - Percent of Young Adults in State or Federal Prison and Local Jails, By Gender, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age, 1999-2010

1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 20101
Age 18-19
Male2 1.9 1.9 2.0 1.9 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.7 2.0 1.9 1.5 1.5
Non-Hispanic white 0.9 1.0 1.0 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9 1.0 1.0 0.8 0.8
Non-Hispanic black 5.8 6.0 6.1 5.7 5.1 5.1 4.8 4.8 5.2 5.3 4.2 3.8
Hispanic 2.5 2.3 2.4 2.3 1.9 1.9 2.0 2.0 2.2 2.3 1.7 1.5
Female2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Non-Hispanic white 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Non-Hispanic black 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1
Hispanic 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1
Age 20-24
Male2 3.1 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.2 2.9 2.8
Non-Hispanic white 1.5 1.7 1.7 1.5 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.4 1.3
Non-Hispanic black 10.4 10.6 10.8 10.9 10.8 10.5 9.9 10.2 9.1 9.2 8.2 8.0
Hispanic 4.1 3.2 3.2 3.6 3.6 3.6 3.9 4.2 3.9 4.0 3.7 3.3
Female2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Non-Hispanic white 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Non-Hispanic black 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.4
Hispanic 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.3
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 20101
Age 25-29
Male2 3.4 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.4 3.4 3.5 3.4 3.3 3.2 3.2 3.2
Non-Hispanic white 1.5 1.7 1.9 1.7 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.6 1.5 1.5
Non-Hispanic black 12.3 12.8 13.2 13.1 12.3 12.0 11.2 11.1 9.8 9.8 9.7 9.4
Hispanic 4.2 3.2 3.1 3.7 3.9 3.8 4.0 4.1 3.7 3.8 4.0 3.9
Female2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Non-Hispanic white 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Non-Hispanic black 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.8 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.5
Hispanic 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
1Estimates for 1999 based on the U.S. resident population for July 1st of the respective year and adjusted for the 1990 census undercount. Estimates for 2000-2009 based on intercensal estimates of the U.S. resident population as of July 1 of the respective year (by gender, age, race and Hispanic origin).2Includes races/ethnicities not shown separately: American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.Sources: Data for 1999: Beck, A. J. (2000). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 1999 (No. NCJ 181643). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2000: Beck, A. J., & Karberg, J. C. (2001). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2000 (No. NCJ 185989). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2001: Beck, A. J., Karberg, J. C., & Harrison, P. M. (2002). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2001 (No. NCJ 191702). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2002: Harrison, P. M., & Karberg, J. C. (2003). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2002 (No. NCJ 198877). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2003: Harrison, P. M., & Karberg, J. C. (2004). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2003 (No. NCJ 203947). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2004: Harrison, P. M., & Beck, A. J. (2005). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2004. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2005: Harrison, P. M., & Beck, A. J. (2006). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2005 (No. NCJ 213133). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2006: Sabol, W. J., Minton, T. D., & Harrison, P. M. (2007). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2006. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2007: Sabol W.J., & Couture, H. (2008). Prison inmates at midyear 2007 (No. NCJ 221944). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2008: West, H., & Sabol, W.J. (2009). Prison inmates at midyear 2008 (No. NCJ 225619).Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2009: West, H. (2010). Prison inmates at midyear 2009 (No. NCJ 230113).Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data for 2010: U.S. Department of Justice, Paul Guerino, personal communication, March 6, 2012. and U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, National Intercensal Estimates (2000-2010), found at http://www.census.gov/popest/data/intercensal/national/nat2010.html

 

Endnotes


[1]Krisberg, B. A., Austin, J., & Steele, P. (1991). Unlocking juvenile corrections. San Francisco, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Bureau of Data and Research. (1999). National comparisons from state recidivism studies. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

Krisberg, B. A., & Howell, J. C. (1998). The impact of the juvenile justice system and prospects for graduated sanctions in a comprehensive strategy. In R. Loeber & D. P. Farrington (Eds.), Serious and violent juvenile offenders: Risk factors and successful interventions (pp. 346-366). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[2]Uggen, C. (2000). Work as a turning point in the life course of criminals: A duration model of age, employment and recidivism. American Sociological Review, 65, 529-546.

Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (2003). Shared beginnings, divergent lives: Delinquent boys to age 70. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[3]Labouvie, E. (1996). Maturing out of substance use: Selection and self-correction. Journal of Drug Issues, 26, 457-476.

Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1993). Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Warr, M. (1998). Life-course transitions and desistance from crime. Criminology, 36, 183-215.

Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (2003). Shared beginnings, divergent lives: Delinquent boys to age 70. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[4]Labouvie, E. (1996). Op. cit.

Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (2003).Op. cit.

[5]Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1993). Crime and deviance in the life course. Annual Review of Sociology, 18, 63-84.

Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (2003).Op. cit.

[6] Lochner, L., & Moretti, E. (2004). The effect of education on crime: Evidence from prison inmates, arrests, and self-reports. American Economic Review, 94, 155-189.

[7]McLeigh, J. D. and Sianko, N. (2010), Where have all the children gone? The effects of the justice system on America's children and youth. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(4): 334-341.

[8]Western, B. (2002). The impact of incarceration on wage mobility and inequality. American Sociological Review, 67, 526-546.

Geller, A., Garfinkel, I., & Western, B. (2006). The effects of incarceration on employment and wages: An analysis of the Fragile Families Survey. Princeton, NJ: The Center for Research on Child Wellbeing.

[9]Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C. E. (1989). Social causes of psychological distress. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Cristia, J. P. (2009). Rising mortality and life expectancy differentials by lifetime earnings in the United States [Electronic Version] from http://www.iadb.org/res/publications/pubfiles/pubWP-665.pdf.

Marmot, M. (2004). The status syndrome: How social standing affects our health and longevity. New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks.

Payne, S. (2006). Mental health, poverty and social exclusion. In C. Pantazis, D. Gordon & R. Levitas (Eds.), Poverty and social exclusion in Britain: The millenium survey. Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.

[10]Western, B. (2007). Mass imprisonment and economic inequality. Social Research: An International Quarterly 74(2), 509-532.

[11]Hispanics may be of any race.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2012). Young adults in jail or prison. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=young-adults-in-jail-or-prison

 

Last updated: April 2012

 

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