Publication Date:

Aug 23, 2016

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*

There 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_fig289_fig3

Among 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)

*Hispanics may be of any race.

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.

Data and Appendices

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

Appendices

Background

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. 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2016). Young adults in jail or prison. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=young-adults-in-jail-or-prison