The Top 5 Crimes for which People are Incarcerated in the United States

  Type of Offence Number of Inmates Percentage of Prison Population
1 Drug crimes 247,900 18.1%
2 Robbery 186,000 13.6%
3 Murder 167,000 12.2%
4 Assault 142,400 10.4%
5 Public-order crimes 139,200 10.1%
Tags: The United States, Crime & Punishment Statistics

Sources:  E. Ann Carson, Ph.D., and William J. Sabol, Ph.D. (2012). Bureau of Justice Statistics Report: "Prisoners in 2011". Please visit the source here

List Notes: Data is estimated number of sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction, by offense for the year 2009. Inmate counts are based on state prisoners with a sentence of more than 1 year. Public-order offenses include weapons, drunk driving, court offenses, commercialized vice, morals and decency offenses, liquor law violations, and other public-order offenses. Murder includes non-negligent manslaughter. Drugs includes trafficking, possession, and other drug offenses.
Crimes for which People are Incarcerated in the United States
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 Facts
  1. For the second year in a row, the number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities at year end declined, as the U.S. prison population decreased by 0.9% in 2011. The rate of decline during 2011 was larger than in 2010, when the prison population declined by 0.1%. From its peak in 2009 of 1,615,487 prisoners, the U.S. prison population declined by 16,707 prisoners to reach 1,598,780 at year end 2011. (a.)
  2. The number of state prisoners decreased by 21,614 (down 1.5%), while the federal prison population increased by 6,591 (up 3.1%). This marked the second straight year in which the state prison population declined while the federal prison population increased.(a.)
  3. Starting in 1973, however, the prison population and imprisonment rates began to rise precipitously. This change was fueled by stiffer sentencing and release laws and decisions by courts and parole boards, which sent more offenders to prison and kept them there for longer terms.3 In the nearly five decades between 1925 and 1972, the prison population increased by 105 percent; in the four decades since, the number of prisoners grew by 705 percent.4 Adding local jail inmates to state and federal prisoners, the Public Safety Performance Project calculated in 2008 that the overall incarcerated population had reached an all-time high, with 1 in 100 adults in the United States living behind bars. (b.)
  4. Twenty-four states had increases in their prison population during 2011. Among the 24 states and federal prison system with increases in their prison populations, the total increase amounted to 13,559 prisoners. Tennessee and Kentucky each observed increases of more than 1,000 prisoners. In Illinois and Minnesota, the increase in 2011 was minimal (i.e., less than 10 prisoners). (a.)
  5. In 2011, 26 states had decreases in their prison population totaling 28,582 prisoners. California’s decline of 15,493 prisoners accounted for more than half of the total decrease (see text box on page 4). New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Florida, and Texas had decreases of more than 1,000 prisoners, and Connecticut and North Carolina had declines of more than 900. (a.)
Top 5 facts sources:
  1. E. Ann Carson, Ph.D., and William J. Sabol, Ph.D. (2012). Bureau of Justice Statistics Report: "Prisoners in 2011". Retrieved July 19th, 2012.
  2. The PEW Center on the States. (2010). "Prison Count 2010" Retrieved July 19th, 2012.

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