Growth in Mass Incarceration

The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration. Get the facts and statistics on trends in U.S. incarceration.

Prison Population Over Time

There are 2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase over the last 40 years. Changes in sentencing law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety.

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Research at The Sentencing Project

Explore the data

  • U.S. criminal justice data

    View and sort criminal justice data for U.S. states and jurisdictions and compare the numbers against the nation's total.

    U.S. Criminal Justice Data
  • Detailed data tool

    An expanded data set with an interactive tool allows you to compare state-level incarceration data for youth and adults, including racial/ethnic disparities, and estimates on the impact of felony disenfranchisement.

    Detailed Data Tool
  • Resource library

    Search important resources created, produced, and published by The Sentencing Project, including research and advocacy publications, webinars, testimonials and more.

    Resource Library

The support of The Sentencing Project has been integral in informing our community of the racial disparities that exist in Iowa. Their research added credibility to local organizers’ approaches and forced the community to shift its focus from detention toward the bigger picture— racial inequity.

LaDrina Wilson
Iowa Organizer and Youth Justice Advocate
Research at The Sentencing Project

Our criminal legal system is broken

For over three decades, The Sentencing Project’s research and analysis has served as the backbone of successful national and state criminal legal reform campaigns. Join us in speaking out against the racist policies that underpin our penal system and advocate with us for meaningful solutions to advance public safety.

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  • 1 in 7

    people in U.S. prisons are serving a life sentence.

  • 4X

    Black youth are over four times as likely to be detained or committed in juvenile facilities as their white peers.


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