Department of Justice reports high jail capacity despite declining incarceration rate

According to a recent U.S. Department of Justice report analyzing 2016 jail incarceration rates, nearly 20 percent of jails in 2016 were operating at or above 100 percent of their rated capacity, or the maximum number of beds assigned to a jail by an official rating. The report also found that the rated capacity in jails increased to 915,400 beds in 2016, a figure that has steadily increased since 2000.

These numbers indicate that many jurisdictions are not considering flexible alternatives to jail, including restorative justice initiatives, electronic monitoring, community corrections and reentry programming, which can save taxpayers money while still promoting public safety.

In addition, the DOJ reported that the ratio of jail inmates to correctional officers in 2016 was four to one. And in 2016, jails had over 10.6 million admissions nationwide, leaving 80 percent of jails beds occupied.

The report shows that jails continue to remain crowded even as jail incarceration rates decline. Between midyear 2008 and midyear 2016, jail incarceration rates fell 11.2 percent, with midyear defined as the last weekday in June.

To view the full DOJ report, click here.