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Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001

NCJ Number
Thomas P. Bonczar
Date Published
August 2003
12 pages
This special report presents estimates of the number of living persons in the United States, 1974 to 2001, who have ever been to State or Federal prison.
Such estimates include persons in prison and on parole, as well as those previously incarcerated but no longer under parole supervision. The report also provides updated estimates of the lifetime chances of going to prison using standard demographic life table techniques. Such techniques project the likelihood of incarceration for persons born in 2001, assuming current incarceration rates continue until their death. Each of the measures is estimated by age, gender, race, and Hispanic origin. Highlights include the following: Of adults in 2001 who had ever served time in prison, nearly as many were Black (2,166,000) as were White (2,203,000). An estimated 997,000 were Hispanic. If incarceration rates remain unchanged, 6.6 percent of United States residents born in 2001 will go to prison at some time during their lifetime. United States residents ages 35 to 39 in 2001 were more likely to have gone to prison (3.8 percent) than any other group, up from 2.3 percent in 1991.