Almost half of U.S. adults know an immediate family member who spent at least a day in jail

Almost half of U.S. adults know an immediate family member who spent at least a day in jail while 6.5 MILLION Americans know a close relative currently behind bars, report finds

  • FWD.us and Cornell researchers team up to write report on prison reform
  • Report finds that 45 per cent of U.S. adult population knows immediate family member who spent at least a day in jail
  • African-Americans are 50 per cent more likely than whites to have family members incarcerated
  • The U.S. has the world's largest prison population - 2.1 million people 

By Ariel Zilber For Dailymail.com

Published: 19:26 EST, 12 December 2018 | Updated: 19:41 EST, 12 December 2018

Mass incarceration in the United States is so prevalent that almost half of all American adults know a close relative who was either in jail or in prison at some point in their lives, a new study has found.

FWD.us, a criminal justice reform advocacy group, and Cornell University co-wrote a report which found that 113 million adults in the U.S. - or 45 per cent of the adult population - have had an immediate family member locked up behind bars for at least one night.

The statistics show that minority communities are disproportionately affected.

African-Americans are 50 per cent more likely than whites to have a family members incarcerated, according to the report.

In total, nearly 6.5 million adults have a family member who is currently either in jail or prison.

The report also found that almost 54 per cent of incarcerated parents were the primary wage earners in their household.

A California corrections officer watches over prisoners at San Quentin in this undated file photo. Mass incarceration in the United States is so prevalent that almost half of all American adults know a close relative who was either in jail or in prison at some point in their lives
A California corrections officer watches over prisoners at San Quentin in this undated file photo. Mass incarceration in the United States is so prevalent that almost half of all American adults know a close relative who was either in jail or in prison at some point in their lives

A California corrections officer watches over prisoners at San Quentin in this undated file photo. Mass incarceration in the United States is so prevalent that almost half of all American adults know a close relative who was either in jail or in prison at some point in their lives

An ‘immediate family member’ is defined in the report as a parents, child, sibling, partner, or spouse.

‘The emotional toll that it takes on families, the financial toll, it's devastating and it's causing families to lose much of their income,’ said Carlton Miller of FWD.us.

The report found that the system of cash bail imposes hardships on families who must scrounge together money that is scarce - or, for those who can’t afford it, watch helplessly as their loved ones are in jail before they are tried.

The U.S. prison population currently stands at approximately 2.1 million, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

That doesn’t include about 3.7 million on probation and 840,000 on parole.

In total, the American criminal justice system has control of the lives of nearly 7 million people.

Just under half a million - 456,000 people - are held for nonviolent drug offenses, including possession and trafficking.

The U.S. has more people in pre-trial detention - 465,000 in local jails - than most countries have in their jails and prisons combined.

The country with the second largest prison population in the world is China, which has 1.65 million people behind bars, according to World Prison Brief.

But China’s overall population is nearly 1.4 billion, while the U.S. is 325 million.

That means for every 100,000 people, the U.S. jails 655.

China imprisons just 118 people for every 100,000.

Russia is almost as prolific a jailer as the U.S. It imprisons 615 people per a population of 100,000.

‘Look across our country, you'd see a trending pattern that lock up too many folks for non-violent offenses,’ said Miller.

‘We are sending folks back to jail for technical violations, on parole, on probation, and as a result, those individuals are sent back to prison and they're being sent to prison for longer sentences.’ 

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