New Study Examines Rate Of Jail Incarceration In 44 States

Published: Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 3:06pm

The authors of a new report on jail populations say previous estimates have underestimated the impact of incarceration on states and counties.

Researchers at the Prison Policy Initiative used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to estimate the number of unique annual jail admissions for 44 states.

While traditional methods look at average daily population, Prison Policy Initiative spokesperson Wandra Bertram says the nature of jails requires a different approach.

“If you go to jail, it can be as short as hours or more commonly days or weeks or months,” she said. Because of that churn, Betram says it’s more accurate to look at the total number of people booked into jails in a state and compare it to the total population.

In Arizona, that rate is slightly above average, at 1,680 unique jail admissions per 100,000 state residents.

Bertram says their research has shown many people booked into county jails suffer from poverty and serious physical and mental health problems.

“That matters," Bertram said, "because jails are not places where we want to be treating health care issues and they’re certainly not a just place to be putting our poorest residents.”

Bertram hopes the new study will encourage states with high rates of jail admissions to look at alternatives to incarceration.

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