Prisoner Facts

On this page, you will find some great information and facts on prisoners and recidivism. Click on each infographic for a larger view.

You can see high-level information on why prison education makes sense for our country’s economy and our families here. For information on prison education, check out our Prisoner Education Facts page, which takes some great info from the award-winning book, College for Convicts, making some compelling arguments for the long-term re-institution of the Pell Grants for Prisoners.

For even more detailed information, you can read through our Prison Research Papers. If you have questions about this information or any other information on our site, please
Members of the media can visit our Media FAQ page for quick facts and copy, check out some of Chris’ latest interviews In the Media, or Email our Publicist to book an interview.

Prisoner Recidivism

In 2010, 23% of adults exiting parole returned to prison as a result of violating their terms of supervision, and 9% returned to prison as a result of a new criminal conviction. Parole violators accounted for nearly a third of prison admissions in 2009. In a study that looked at recidivism in over 40 states, over 40% of offenders returned to state prison within three years of their release from correctional custody.

A large three-state recidivism study found that less than half of released prisoners were able to find a job upon release. Employment rates and earning histories of people in prisons and jails are often low before incarceration as a result of limited formal educational experiences, low skill levels, and the prevalence of physical and mental health problems, incarceration only exacerbates these challenges.

Prisoner Health & Mental Illness

In 2007, the most recent year of general U.S. population data, the overall rate of estimated confirmed AIDS among the state and federal prison population (0.43%) was 2.5 times the rate in the general U.S. population (0.17%). Serious mental illness is two to four times higher among prisoners than it is in the general U.S. population, and chronic illnesses and communicable diseases are far greater among jail detainees and prison inmates.

Prisoner Substance Abuse

In 2004, 53% of state and 45% of federal prison inmates met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for drug abuse or dependence, and nearly a third of the state and a quarter of federal prisoners committed their offenses under the influence of drugs. While only 7 to 17% of prisoners who met the criteria for alcohol or drug dependence or abuse received treatment in jail or prison. These inmates were also twice as likely as other inmates to have three or more prior probation or incarceration sentences.


Read More about Prison Education from our recommended Books.

  • A. Carson and w. Sabol, Prisoners in 2011, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).
  • Patrick A. Langan and David J. Levin, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994, NCJ 193427 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002).
  • Timothy A. Hughes, Doris James Wilson, and Allen J. Beck, Trends in State Parole, 1990-2000, NCJ 184735 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001).
  • Adam Gelb, Presentation at the National Summit on Justice Reinvestment (Washington, DC, January 27, 2010).
  • E.P. Deschenes, B. Owen, and J. Crow, Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners: Secondary Analysis of the 1994 BJS Recidivism Data Set (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 2007).
  • L.E. Glaze and T.P. Bonczar, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2010, NCJ 231674 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011).
  • Pew Center on the States, State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons (Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, April 2011).
  • A.J. Beck, The Importance of Successful Reentry to Jail Population Growth, presented at the Urban Institute’s Jail Reentry Roundtable (Washington, DC, June 27, 2006).
  • P.M. Guerino, P.M. Harrison, W. Sabol, Prisoners in 2010 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011).
  • T. Hughes and D.J. Wilson, Reentry Trends in the United States (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2002).
  • L.E. Glaze and L.M. Maruschak, Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children, NCJ 222984 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).
  • C. Uggen and J. Staff, “Work as a Turning Point for Criminal Offenders,” in J.L. Krienert and M.S. Fleisher (eds.), Crime & Employment: Critical Issues in Crime Reduction for Corrections (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004).
  • H. Holzer, S. Raphael, and M. Stoll, Employment Barriers Facing Ex-Offenders (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 2003).
  • C.W. Harlow, Education and Correctional Populations, NCJ 195670 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).
  • H.J. Steadman, F. Osher, P.C. Robbins, B. Case, and Samuels, “Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness Among Jail Inmates,” Psychiatric Services 60 (2009), 761-65.
  • T. Hammett, C. Roberts, and S. Kennedy, “Health Related Issues in Prisoner Reentry,” Crime & Delinquency 47, no. 3 (2001): 390-409.
  • L.M. Maruschak and R. Beavers, HIV in Prisons, 2007-08, NCJ 228307 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009).
  • National Commission on Correctional Health Care, The Health Status of Soon-To-Be-Released Prisoners: A Report to Congress, vol. 1 (Chicago: National Commission on Correctional Health Care, 2002).
  • National Institute of Drug Abuse, Treating Offenders with Drug Problems: Integrating Public Health and Public Safety (Bethesda, MD: Author, 2009).
  • J.C. Karberg and D.J. James, Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002, NCJ 209588 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005).
  • C.J. Mumola and J.C. Karberg, Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2014, NCJ 213530 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006).
  • S. Metraux and D.P. Culhane, “Homelessness and indicators of mental illness among inmates in New York City’s correctional system,” Hospital and Community Psychiatry 43 (2002): 150-155.
  • S. Metraux and D.P. Culhane, “The Homeless Shelter Use of Reincarceration Following Prison Release: Assessing the Risk,” Criminology & Public Policy 3, no. 2 (2004): 201-222.

Note: A special thank you to The Sentencing Project and The Council of State Governments for granting permission to utilize their collated research and data when creating this website.