COVID Data Analysis Incarceration Trends November 18, 2022

Measuring Progress: The Fall & Rise of Jail Populations During the Pandemic

Cecilia Low-Weiner, Brandon Martinez, Benjamin Estep, CUNY Institute for STate and Local Governance

A Closer Look at COVID-19’s Effect on Bookings in Safety and Justice Challenge Communities

Across the country, counties seeking to curb the overuse and misuse of jails have looked to a common entry point to do so: their front doors. Since the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) launched in 2015, participating communities have implemented data-driven strategies that have helped reduce the number of people booked into their jails, reductions often closely linked to declines in overall jail population. By January 2020, just prior to the onset of COVID-19, bookings had declined in SJC communities overall by 13 percent, with no negative impacts on community safety: crime trends remained stable or decreased following SJC implementation. When the pandemic started spreading across the United States in early 2020—especially rapidly within jails—SJC communities began implementing emergency measures to reduce their jail populations, many of which directly impacted bookings and resulted in steep declines.

In an effort to understand how these declines were achieved in individual communities, and gain insight into how to sustain these lowered populations, SJC site coordinators collected information on the strategies implemented and closely tracked jail trends. This brief seeks to expand upon findings from Measuring Progress—an online tool developed by the CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance (ISLG) that measures jail trends since SJC implementation—to explore booking-related trends across communities pre- and post-COVID, offering a first look at how some of these emergency decarceration strategies may have impacted trends and what has happened since normal operations have resumed.


Incarceration Trends Presumption of Innocence Pretrial and Bail Pretrial and Jails Pretrial Justice Pretrial Services October 12, 2022

Cages Without Bars

Patrice James, Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative
James Kilgore, MediaJustice
Gabriela Kirk, Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University
Grace Mueller, Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts
Sarah Staudt, Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts
Emmett Sanders, Challenging E-Carceration
LaTanya R. Jackson Wilson, Shriver Center on Poverty Law

Pretrial Electronic Monitoring Across the United States

Across the United States each year, hundreds of thousands of people accused but not yet convicted of crimes are required by the courts to participate in electronic monitoring programs. These people are fitted with a locked, tightened ankle shackle, which often tracks every move they make.

Pretrial electronic monitoring programs represent a fast-growing type of incarceration that imposes significant harm and burdens on people who are subject to it. We interviewed people subject to monitoring, program administrators, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys across select jurisdictions to better understand how pretrial electronic monitoring is used.


Incarceration Trends Jail Populations Racial Disparities June 24, 2022

Overrepresentation of People Who Identify As LGBTQ+ In The Criminal Legal System

Jane Hereth, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or who hold other marginalized sexual orientation and/or gender identities (LGBTQ+) are overrepresented within the criminal legal system. LGBTQ+ people of color and LGBTQ+ people with disabilities experience even higher rates of criminal legal system involvement than their White LGBTQ+ peers. This report will review factors contributing to these disparities. Additionally, the report will highlight the work of organizations addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals involved in the criminal legal system and outline recommendations to address overrepresentation.

How to Use Our New Jail Trends Tool

By: Cecilia Low-Weiner

Data Analysis Incarceration Trends Jail Populations May 22, 2022

There is great news for people looking to understand how jail populations are changing across the country: The Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) has a new tool enabling anyone to track progress of SJC site jails.

The jail trends tool distills all the progress achieved across SJC sites since the Challenge began. Users can click through to different tabs to explore key trends across SJC sites and can drill down in each of these trends to view them on an individual site basis for a more nuanced local perspective.

We are also planning a series of accompanying briefs over the coming months, which will be available here as they’re released. Each brief will take a more detailed look at specific findings and provide additional context to help explain the trends.

Below is an overview of how users can interact with the tool and a highlight of some of the key findings.

Tracking Jail Populations by SJC site

One of the primary goals of the Safety and Justice Challenge is to reduce the misuse and overuse of jails. Users can select a specific SJC community to see how local jail populations have changed since before they joined SJC, to the most recent available quarter. Overall, SJC communities collectively reduced their jail population by 26% since the start of the SJC, resulting in 19,983 fewer people held in jail on any given day. While progress varies across sites, 15 sites reduced their jail population by 15% or more.

Looking at Pretrial Populations

Communities participating in SJC have successfully implemented a variety of strategies to reduce the pretrial jail population and ensure people can stay in their communities while their case is pending. Users can select individual sites to see how their pretrial population has changed. Overall, SJC communities have collectively reduced their pretrial populations by 18% since the SJC began.

Comparing SJC Sites to National Jail Population Declines

One yardstick for understanding jail population change in SJC communities is a comparison with jail population trends nationally. Overall, the population decline in communities participating in SJC outpaced the national jail population decline prior to the pandemic, and declined at a similar rate during the pandemic. Between 2016 and 2019 the national jail population remained flat. Among SJC communities that began implementation in 2016, jail populations declined by 11% during the period. After the onset of the pandemic SJC sites mirrored the national jail population reduction of around 27% between June 2019 and June 2020.

SJC Sites’ Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on jail populations – particularly on jail bookings. In this tab, users can select a community to see how the pandemic affected local jail booking trends. While bookings were declining across sites before the pandemic, bookings dropped substantially, by 57%, between February 2020 and April 2020. Since the low in April, bookings have been rising in most SJC communities. However, as of the most recent quarter, they are still below pre-pandemic levels.

Tracking Racial Disparities

The other core goal of the Safety and Justice Challenge is to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in jail populations. Since implementation, outcomes improved for people of color across SJC communities, but improvements in outcomes for White people outpaced those for people of color. Jail populations declined by more than 15% for Black populations in 10 SJC communities, for Latinx populations in six, and for Indigenous populations in one of four communities. Despite this, declines for White populations were greater. That resulted in persistent or increasing disparities. Users can view disparities for both jail populations and bookings both across SJC sites and at the individual site level.

Future Innovation

Now that the tool is live, we are working with SJC sites and other stakeholders to bring more findings to the public, including trends in length of stay, and further information on how the composition of jail populations has changed over time – in addition to making quarterly updates to the data already publicly available. Please check back regularly to see what’s new!


Courts Data Analysis Frequent Jail Users Incarceration Trends Probation Sanctions May 5, 2022

Trends in Jail Incarceration for Probation Violations

Rochisha Shukla, Ammar Khalid, Arielle Jackson

Urban Institute report on Trends in Jail Incarceration for Probation Violations

In partnership with the Adult Probation Department in Pima County, Arizona, and as part of broader research funded by the Safety and Justice Challenge to examine the impact on jail use of providing housing supports for people on probation in Pima County, the Urban Institute analyzed trends in jail incarceration for people with probation violations using datasets for overall jail bookings in the county from 2015 to 2020 and petitions-to-revoke for people on probation from 2016 to 2020. This case study summarizes our findings on patterns in overall jail bookings and petitions-to-revoke and, for the probation population in jail, analyzes average lengths of stay and patterns by race and ethnicity and sex.