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The form used for these pages is a brief introduction and a set of charts that can be expanded to full screen by clicking on the chart. A slide show was used in a previous version of this website but some people claim slide shows are ineffective and in this case the issue was forced by a failure of the slider feature. The charts have captions and below the charts are brief discussions of each chart followed by a summary.
My objective is to provide information pertaining to prison population growth. Primarily what happened, when it happened and whenever possible how it happened. Why it happened is best discussed by the legal historians in my opinion.
It is easy to propose simple easy to understand solutions to the problem of overuse of incarceration that don’t work. We have enough of that.
- World, US State and Iowa County incarceration rates are compared. US county prison admission rates are also compared.
- A set of charts shows how length of stay in prison depends on offense type and sentence type.
- The role of length of stay and other factors are reviewed in order to understand how the Iowa prison population increased between 1972 and 2007.
- Data from combined state and Iowa prisons are used to study the most recent epoch of prison population growth.
- Combined state, federal and Iowa prisons have had epochs of persistent population gain or loss.
- Figures 1 -3 show two ways to estimate the average length of stay in prison. Figure 3 shows that the average length of stay in prison is not a very useful quantity.
- Figures 4 and 5 show that there are large gender differences and why the average length of stay is dominated by violent crimes with very long lengths of stay.
- During the most recent episode of rapid prison population growth it was found that the female rate of growth was much larger than the male rate.
- It does not appear that anyone has a satisfactory explanation for the difference.
- Incarceration rate growth rates by race/ethnicity for Iowa were compared to the combined state rates. It appears likely that there are large differences between states.
8/03/17 State Prison System Differences
- State incarceration rates for FY 1980 and FY 2015 are compared.
- All state rates increased most likely because of national factors.
- However, there were similar sized differences between states so that state factors are too large to be ignored.
- There were also large differences between state average prison admission rates.
- In addition there were very large differences in county prison admission rates within a single state.
8/02/17 Prison Population History Charts
- Historians have reported that in colonial times that the penalties for Blacks were very harsh, harsh for immigrants and lenient for White females. After the Revolutionary War that practice continued.
- However, the number of capital crimes was reduced to treason and murder and harsh corporal punishments were either eliminated or their use curtailed.
- The preferred punishment was hard labor in workhouses and camps. When the states started to build prisons they were quickly filled by transferring prisoners from workhouses and camps to prison.
- The first US prisons opened about 1790 and their records indicate that the policy of very harsh penalties for Blacks, harsh penalties for immigrants and lenient penalties for White females continued.
- Both historical accounts and prison records show that those policies still are a feature of the U. S. criminal justice system.
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