Pope Francis's visit to a Philadelphia prison this weekend will serve as a reminder of the heavy cost of today's high incarceration levels for families, neighborhoods and states. By responsibly reforming their criminal justice systems (see here for four basic approaches), states can reduce their prison populations, free up resources, and invest in the communities most harmed by high levels of incarceration.
Here are some points to keep in mind:
- State prison populations have soared in recent decades, from roughly 270,000 in 1978 to over 1.35 million in 2014. (This interactive map gives state-by-state figures.) If you include inmates in federal prisons and local jails, the total rises to roughly 2.3 million, meaning that almost one out of every 100 adults are in jail or prison.
This post originally appeared on Off the Charts, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' blog.