Tuesday, December 15, 2015

County-level map shows high rates of inmates in rural jails; rural females jailed up 9% since 1970

The number of inmates being incarcerated in rural jails is on the rise, surpassing totals from urban ones, Max Ehrenfreund reports for The Washington Post. The Vera Institute of Justice says that since 1970, "the jail population has expanded sevenfold in small counties, more than twice as fast as it has in large counties. On a typical day in 2014, those large counties had an average of 271 inmates in jails per 100,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64. In small counties, the figure was 446 inmates." Also, in 1978, the average stay in jail was nine days. Now it is more than three weeks.

The report, which used data from California and New York, "focused on locally administered jails rather than prisons," Ehrenfreund writes. "While policymakers and the press discuss prisons more frequently, local jails are where the vast majority of Americans who are locked up go. Jails accounted for a little more than 11 million admissions annually, while state and federal prisons recorded just 627,000 admissions last year." The institute's preliminary analysis "indicates that the pattern of increasing rates of incarceration in suburban and rural counties holds when prisons are included, too."

One startling figure was the increased rate of incarcerated women, with numbers increasing from 5 percent in 1970 to 14 percent today, Ehrenfreund writes. Some of the highest rates were in counties in
Appalachian Tennessee and Kentucky. While the institute did not give a specific reason for the overall rise of inmates in rural areas, Ehrenfreund suggested that rural poverty could be one reason. (Vera map: Shows how many people lived in each county in 2014 and the share of them who were in a local jail. For an interactive version, click here)

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