Giving Compass’ Take:
• Prison Policy Initiative’s report on U.S. county jail populations closely examines the rate at which individuals are going in and out of the system.
• The report provides recommendations for policies that center on addressing economic and public health issues that lead to arrests. How can donors help strengthen or encourage policies that are aimed at the root problems?
• Read about how mass incarceration harms U.S. health.
Police and jails are supposed to protect the public from serious public safety threats, but what do they actually do? Until now, attempts to answer this question have been missing the most basic data points: how many individuals cycle through local jails every year and who these individuals are.
A new report from the Prison Policy Initiative, Arrest, Release, Repeat, fills this troubling gap in the data. Building on its popular annual snapshot of the U.S. county jail population, the Prison Policy Initiative finds that:
- At least 4.9 million people are arrested and booked in jail every year.
- At least 1 in 4 people who go to jail in a given year will return to jail over the course of a year.
- At least 428,000 people will go to jail three or more times over the course of a year – the first national estimate of a population often referred to as “frequent utilizers.”
- 49% of people with multiple arrests in the past year had annual incomes below $10,000, compared to 36% of people arrested only once and 21% of people with no arrests.
- Despite making up only 13% of the general population, Black men and women account for 21% of people who were arrested just once and 28% of people arrested multiple times.
- People with multiple arrests are much more likely than the general public to suffer from substance use disorders and other illnesses, and much less likely to have access to health care.
- The vast majority of people with multiple arrests are jailed for nonviolent offenses such as drug possession, theft or trespassing.
In a series of policy recommendations, the report explains how counties can choose to stop continuously jailing their most vulnerable residents and instead solve the economic and public health problems that often lead to arrest.
Read the full article about analysis of arrests and releases in the U.S. by Wanda Bertram at Prison Policy Initiative.
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