Much of justice reform focuses on the prison system in America. Statistics and studies usually include extensive amounts of information pertaining to prison demographics, numbers, solutions, etc. However, detailed information regarding the state of the American jail system and the rate of incarceration in local jails has been lacking.
While efforts behind prison reform are valid and a very worthy cause in the overall fight to combat the state of our current inefficient and ineffective justice system, misuse of the local jail system is similarly vital. Incarcerating a person presumed innocent in jail is still depriving the individual of certain liberties, which requires an appropriate and adequate application of power.
The use of prison and jail are distinct. Prisons are intended to hold individuals convicted of “serious crimes and sentenced to prison terms longer than a year,” while jails are intended to hold those awaiting trial or “those serving custodial sentences of less than a year.” Each year, however, jails reach approximately 20 times more admissions than prisons.
Recently, the Incarceration Trends Project team at the Vera Institute of Justice released an analytical tool that allows one to analyze jail incarceration rates in his or her county over time. The most interesting discovery through this database is the fact that incarceration rates have grown the most outside of the more well-known and large counties. Since 1970, mid-sized and small counties have driven most of the population growth in jails across America with mid-sized counties experiencing growth by 4.1 times and…