Sentencing and Corrections

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In 2000 state and federal courts convicted some 984,000 adults of felonies, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Of those, 924,700 were adults convicted in state courts and 59,123 were convicted in federal jurisdictions. Some 68 percent of convicted felons were sentenced to a period of incarceration in 2000. Of those, 40 percent went to state prisons and 28 percent to local jails. Those in jails were usually confined for less than one year.

In 2000 the average felony sentence imposed by state courts was 36 months in prison. On average, violent offenders served the most time (66 months), compared to averages of 27 months for property offenses, 30 months for drug offenses, and 25 months for weapons offenses. (See Table 6.1.)

The length of a prison sentence was almost always longer than the time actually served by a convicted felon in 2000. In state prisons, the actual time served was about 55 percent of the overall sentence. Most states (but not the federal system) have parole boards that determine when a prisoner will be paroled (released from prison). In the federal system and in most states, prisoners can earn time credits for good behavior ("good time") to shorten their time in prison.

"Three Strikes" Laws

As of 2004, 26 states and the federal government had "Three Strikes" laws, which require repeat criminals to serve enhanced prison terms if they are convicted of three violent felonies. Most of these laws were enacted during the 1990s in response to a significant rise in crime, particularly violent crime, during the first half of the decade. The consequence of these laws was a rise in the prison population, along with its attendant costs.

Opponents of Three Strikes laws argue that the laws demand even more prisons to house prisoners for longer

Average maximum sentence length (in months) for felons sentenced to:
Most serious conviction offenseTotalPrisonJailProbation
All offenses36 mo55 mo6 mo38 mo
Violent offenses66 mo91 mo7 mo44 mo
Property offenses27 mo42 mo6 mo38 mo
Drug offenses30 mo47 mo6 mo36 mo
Weapons offenses25 mo38 mo7 mo36 mo
Other offenses22 mo38 mo6 mo40 mo
Note: Means exclude sentences to death or to life in prison. Sentence length data were available for 852,616 incarceration and probation sentences.
source: "Lengths of Felony Sentences Imposed by State Courts, 2000," in "Criminal Sentencing Statistics," U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC, December 10, 2003 [Online] [accessed March 8, 2004]

periods. Also, reducing the possibility of parole results in more and more elderly prisoners, who are statistically much less likely to commit crimes than younger prisoners, and who have increasing health-care needs. By the year 2000 many states that had passed Three Strikes laws were wondering how to pay for more prisons and longer incarcerations.

Since 2000 several states have loosened their mandatory minimum sentencing laws or taken other measures to reduce their prison populations. For example, in 2001 Mississippi adopted an early-release provision for nonviolent offenders, and states such as California, Texas, North Carolina, Connecticut, Idaho, and Arkansas have passed legislation mandating the diversion of nonviolent drug offenders to community-based treatment programs.

On April 1, 2002, the United States Supreme Court agreed to consider whether California's Three Strikes law, considered to be one of the toughest in the country, violates the Eighth Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment. Over half (57 percent) of California prisoners sentenced under the Three Strikes law were convicted of nonviolent third-strike felonies, including drug possession and petty theft, and are serving mandatory sentences of 25 years to life without the possibility of parole. In March 2003 the Supreme Court, in a five–four decision, upheld the right of states to impose lengthy sentences on repeat felony offenders, regardless of the relative seriousness of the "third-strike" felony.


Executions in the United States had been dropping for decades since their height of some 200 a year in the late 1930s. By the 1960s capital punishment was seldom used at all. (See Figure 6.1.) In 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional as it was then administered by the states. But in 1976 the Court approved revised capital punishment laws. Since that time, the number of persons under sentence of death has risen from less than 500 to over 3,500. (See Figure 6.2.)

Thirty-eight states and the federal government had laws sanctioning the death penalty in 2004. Of those, 37 states and the federal government allowed the use of lethal injection, and one state (Nebraska) required electrocution as the means of execution. The states that authorized the death penalty by lethal injection were: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey,New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Although New York law authorizes the use of lethal injection, in June 2004 the state's highest court ruled that the state's sentencing laws were unconstitutional and instructed the state legislature to revise sentencing laws or death penalty sentences in New York would be invalid. In addition to lethal injection, ten states permit the use of electrocution, five states allow the use of the gas chamber, and three states permit the use of a firing squad. New Hampshire and Washington permit hanging as a means of execution. In April 2004, 3,487 inmates were on death row in the United States.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the 3,557 prisoners under sentence of death at the end of 2002, 98.6 percent were male and 1.4 percent were female. Slightly more than half (54.2 percent) were white, 43.6 percent were African-American, and 2.2 percent of prisoners under death sentence were of other races, including 27 who were self-identified as American Indian and 33 who identified themselves as Asian. Over half of death row inmates (51.8 percent) had dropped out of school by the 11th grade, while 38.5 percent were high school graduates or had completed the GED equivalency, and 9.7 percent had attended college. Some 54.3 percent of death row prisoners had never married, compared to 22.1 percent who were married and 20.8 percent who were divorced or separated. (See Table 6.2.) In 2002, 71 people (69 men and two women) were executed in the United States. Of those, 53 were white and 18 were African-American. Lethal injection was used in 70 of the executions in 2002, while electrocution was used in one execution.

Prisoners under sentence of death, 2002
Total number under sentence of death3,557159179
All other races*
Hispanic origin
8th grade or less14.7%21.4%14.5%
9th-11th grade37.134.936.2
High school graduate/GED38.537.336.2
Any college9.76.313.1
Marital status
Never married54.350.750.9
Note: Calculations are based on those cases for which data were reported.
Missing data by category were as follows:
Hispanic origin3993821
Marital status3422720
*At yearend 2001, other races consisted of 27 American Indians, 32 Asians, and 12 self-identified Hispanics. During 2002, 2 Asians and 1 American Indian were admitted; and 1 Asian and 1 American Indian were removed.
source: Thomas P. Bonczar and Tracy L. Snell, "Table 5: Demographic Characteristics of Prisoners under Sentence of Death, 2002," in "Capital Punishment, 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, November 2003

Most prisoners on death row at the end of 2002 were repeat offenders, with 59.5 percent having prior felony convictions. However, of those, only 7.8 percent had prior homicide convictions. Some 15.6 percent of death row inmates committed their capital offense while on parole, 9.4 percent while on probation, and 6.7 percent while there were other charges pending against them. Fifty-four percent of death row inmates at year end, 2002, reported that they had no pending legal status at the time of their capital offense.

According to "Capital Punishment 2002" by Thomas P. Bonczar and Tracy L. Snell (Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, November 2003), between 1977 and 2002 some 6,532 persons were under the sentence of death in the United States. Of those, some 12.5 percent (820) were executed and 38.8 percent either died of natural causes or had their death sentences lifted and received other dispositions. During that time period, 66.3 percent of the 820 executions occurred in five states—Texas (289), Virginia (87), Missouri (59), Oklahoma (55), and Florida (54). In 2002, 33 executions were carried out in Texas, accounting for 46.4 percent of the 71 executions carried out in the United States.

Proponents of the Death Penalty

Some supporters of the death penalty, as a deterrent, look back to 1966 when there was a virtual moratorium on execution at the state level and the murder rate began to increase (by 1980 it was more than twice the 1963 rate). Along with this trend, there was an upswing in the number of felony murders as compared to crimes of passion. By the mid-1990s, when the number of executions had increased, the murder rate dropped again (as it did in the 1930s, when both homicides and executions were at their highest point in national history). Even though the absence of capital punishment does not alone cause murder rates to rise, supporters say, it still plays a major role. Further, they argue, no other punishment can substitute for execution as a deterrent because even life sentences often end early in parole or pardon. Recidivism can occur after release; and innocent victims outnumber prisoners wrongfully executed.

A second reason frequently cited for support of the death penalty is its function as retribution. This satisfies an emotional need for victims' loved ones, meets the demands of certain moral codes, and contributes to a sort of social cohesiveness (by allowing law-abiding persons to band together and show their support of shared values). Those who feel that punishment should be "proportional" argue that nothing less than the murderer's own death fits the crime of homicide.

Death penalty proponents do not believe that execution methods used in civilized nations like the United States are barbaric. They also point to capital punishment's continuation in most of the Western world until the 1950s and the support it has even today in European countries where it has been abolished. They contend that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment does not extend to execution and was never intended to be interpreted that way. In Furman v. Georgia (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court found only that the death penalty was used fairly. Plus, they add, the American legal system includes an appeals process, which can stretch on for years after the imposition of a death sentence. Out of 453 prisoners on death row in Texas, for example, only 33 were executed in 2002. Advocates for the death penalty further argue that more capital cases are overturned because of judicial error than due to defendants' innocence.

Troubling Questions

Studies done by the Gallup Poll in 2000 show that though the death penalty is still supported by the majority of Americans (66 percent), support has dropped since its peak in 1994 (80 percent). In the same poll, some 91 percent of respondents said they believed that in the past 20 years at least one person sentenced to death was innocent. These opinions probably have something to do with publicity surrounding several death penalty convictions being overturned due to newly obtained DNA evidence. Other issues, such as erroneous eyewitness accounts, false confessions and testimony, and police or prosecutorial misconduct, have called into question the fairness of capital punishment trials and sentencing of death row inmates.

In Oklahoma in 2001 the discovery of the possible false testimony of state witness forensic chemist, Joyce Gilchrist, left dozens of cases in question. In September 2001 the Department of Justice released a study that documented that race and geography play a role in who is sentenced to death, echoing the findings of several other independent studies across the nation. In Texas, lawyers of 43 inmates who received the death penalty were later sanctioned for misconduct or even disbarred, according to the Chicago Tribune. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), nationally there was a 68 percent rate of serious error in death penalty trials.

Because of questions brought about by these cases, several states that allowed the death penalty imposed moratoriums on executions until studies were completed. In Illinois in 2000 Republican Governor George Ryan declared a moratorium after 13 inmates on death row were found innocent within a few months. He put together a commission to review the state's system and offer suggestions for improvements. In April of 2002, 85 changes, including reducing the number of capital crimes, videotaping police interrogations, forbidding capital punishment in cases where the conviction is based solely on the testimony of a single eyewitness, and increasing competent counsel protections, were recommended by the commission. In January 2003 Governor Ryan commuted the sentences of all death row inmates in Illinois to prison time. In May 2002 Democratic Governor Parris Glendening of Maryland, also declared a moratorium until a study could be completed by the University of Maryland in September 2002, and the state legislature had time to review the results.

According to The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, from the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, until June 24, 2002, 108 people on death row had been exonerated from the crimes for which they had been sentenced to death. The American Bar Association asked for a moratorium on the death penalty in 1997. In 2001 Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), proposed the "National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2001" (S. 233), calling for a moratorium on the federal death penalty and a federal independent commission on problems within the system.

The Execution of Mentally Retarded Criminals

On June 20, 2002, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Virginia death row inmate Daryl Renard Atkins, who is mentally retarded, and declared that the execution of mentally retarded individuals is unconstitutional. The court, in a 6–3 vote, held that such executions constituted a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment. Until this ruling, some 20 states allowed the execution of mentally retarded persons who were convicted of capital crimes.

In writing for the majority of the court, Justice John Paul Stevens held, "This consensus unquestionably reflects widespread judgment about the relative culpability of mentally retarded offenders, and the relationship between mental retardation and the penological purpose served by the death penalty.… Their deficiencies do not warrant an exemption from criminal sanctions, but they do diminish their personal culpability."

In their dissent, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas expressed the view that the court went too far in its ruling, which effectively opens the door for inmates with IQs of 70 or less to appeal their death sentences.

Juries Must Decide

In 1972 a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the constitutionality of capital punishment brought the nation's executions to a halt. The court's decision on Furman v. Georgia stated that state death penalty statutes lacked standards and gave too much discretion to individual judges and to juries. After states addressed some of the issues troubling the court, including mandatory death sentences for some crimes, the court ruled in 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia, that the death penalty was constitutional.

This decision did not address individual states' laws about who determined sentencing for capital offenses. However, on June 24, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juries, not judges, must make the final determination to impose the death penalty in a capital case. The ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, held that a sentence imposed by a judge violates a defendant's constitutional right to a trial by jury. Joining Justice Ginsburg were Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, and Clarence Thomas. Justice Stephen Breyer agreed with the majority in a separate opinion. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

The seven to two ruling, which involved the case of an Arizona death row inmate, overturns at least 150 death penalty sentences (not the guilty verdicts) and could potentially affect over 800 death sentences nationwide. The ruling affects all cases in Arizona, Idaho, and Montana, where a single judge was allowed to decide whether to impose the death penalty. The cases will have to be reconsidered in six other states: Colorado and Nebraska, where panels of judges made sentencing decisions, and Florida,

TotalPercent change
Region and jurisdiction12/31/016/30/0212/31/0112/31/01–06/30/026/30/02–12/31/02
U.S. total1,440,6551,423,0951,404,0322.6%1.2%
New Hampshire2,4512,4762,3922.5−1.0
New Jersey27,89128,05428,142−0.9−0.6
New York67,06567,13167,533−0.7−0.1
Rhode Island13,5203,6943,2418.6−4.7
North Dakota1,1121,1681,1110.1−4.8
South Dakota2,8982,9002,7903.9−0.1

Alabama, Indiana, and Delaware, where a jury can recommend a sentence of death, but a judge ultimately decided on the penalty. The Supreme Court did not decide how the ruling would affect each state. It is possible that the death row inmates' sentences could be commuted to life in prison, or that the inmates could be resentenced, facing the death penalty sentence again.


In 2002 about 6.7 million Americans, or about 3.1 percent of the adult population of the United States, were under some form of correction supervision (prison, jail, probation, and parole). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, by December 31, 2001, over two million persons (2,166,260) were incarcerated in federal, state, and local correctional facilities in the United States. Of those, about two-thirds (1,440,655) were in federal or state custody, while some 665,475 were held in local jails. Most prisoners in federal and state prisons are incarcerated in the South (574,174), the most populous region of the nation, followed by the West (281,743), the Midwest (245,303), and the Northeast (175,907). (See Table 6.3.) The other 4.5 million people under some form of correction supervision were either on probation or paroled. Probation and parole consist of court ordered community supervision of convicted offenders by law enforcement agencies, though probation is usually given in place of incarceration and parole is obtained after a period of

TotalPercent change
Region and jurisdiction12/31/016/30/0212/31/0112/31/01–06/30/026/30/02–12/31/02
North Carolina32,80332,75532,2531.70.1
South Carolina23,71523,01722,5765.03.0
West Virginia4,5444,4884,2157.81.2
New Mexico5,9895,8755,6685.71.9
Note: As of December 31, 2001, the transfer of responsibility for sentenced felons from the District of Columbia to the Federal Bureau of Prisons was completed. The District of Columbia no longer operates a prison system and has been excluded from NPS.
1Prisons and jails form one integrated system. Data include total jail and prison population.
2Population figures are based on custody counts.
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, Table 3: "Prisoners under the Jurisdiction of State or Federal Correctional Authorities, by Region and Jurisdiction, Yearend 2001 to 2002," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, July 2003

incarceration. Both usually require the offender to follow specific rules of conduct while in the community.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2002 there were 3,437 sentenced African-American male inmates per 100,000 African-American males in the United States, compared to 1,176 sentenced Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 450 white male inmates per 100,000 white males. African-American males in their twenties and thirties had much higher rates of incarceration compared to other ethnic and age groups. Of the 1.29 million offenders in local jails or prison in 2002, some 442,300 (34 percent) were black males between the ages of 20 and 39. In terms of the general population, 10.4 percent of all African-American non-Hispanic males from 25 to 29 years of age were in prison or jail in 2002, compared to 2.4 percent of Hispanic males, and 1.2 percent of white males in the same age group.

Number of sentenced inmates in federal prisons
Offense199520002001Percent change, 1995–2001Percent of total growth, 1995–2001
Violent offenses11,40913,74016,11741.3%8.7%
Other violent1,9642,6653,53580.02.9
Property offenses7,84210,13510,66436.0%5.2%
Other property1,8422,1672,40530.61.0
Drug offenses52,78274,27678,50148.7%47.5%
Public-order offenses15,65532,32536,443132.8%38.4%
Other public-order4,7897,8278,89285.77.6
Note: All data are from the BJS Federal justice database. Data are for September 30 and based on sentenced inmates, regardless of sentence length.
1Includes murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, and negligent manslaughter.
2Includes offenses not classifiable.
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 18: Number of Sentenced Inmates in Federal Prisons by Most Serious Offense, 1995, 2000, and 2001," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, July 2003

Prisons and Jails—How Do They Differ?

The terms "prison" and "jail" are frequently used interchangeably. Jails, however, are generally city or county institutions while prisons are usually state or federal institutions. Jails are used to confine adults serving short sentences (generally one year or less) or persons awaiting trial or other legal disposition. Prisons, on the other hand, house convicted criminals sentenced to lengthy terms.

The Growth in the Incarceration Rate

From 1980 to 2000 there were increases among all four groups of adult correctional populations in the United States, with the incarceration rate tripling. The number of prisoners on death row increased over five times, from 692 to 3,593, in that 20-year period. As of 2002, the incarceration rate was 476 per 100,000 U.S. residents, an increase from 411 per 100,000 residents in 1995. Annually, between 1995 and 2001, the incarcerated population grew an average of 3.6 percent. In 2002 the growth rate dropped to 2.6 percent.

The United States has a larger share of its population in prison, on parole, or on probation than any other nation. Marc Mauer, in Comparative International Rates of Incarceration: An Examination of Causes and Trends (The Sentencing Project, Washington, D.C., 2003), compared prison populations and practices around the world. Statistics provided by the Sentencing Project show that in 2002, the incarceration rate (including prisoners, parolees, and probationers) in Russia was 628 per 100,000 persons, while the U.S. rate was 702 per 100,000 persons. The next closest country was South Africa, with an incarceration rate of 400, followed by the United Kingdom (139), Spain (125), Canada (116), and Australia (112).

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, drug offenders (246,100) make up the largest percentage of the U.S. federal prison population. In 2001 they constituted 55 percent of the federal prison population, down from 60 percent in 1995. Immigration violators account for 10 percent of the federal prison population, an increase of 339 percent since 1995. (See Table 6.4.) Male prisoners (93.6 percent) far outnumbered female prisoners (6.4 percent) in 2002. (See Table 6.5.)


Inmates may be in jails for a variety of reasons:

  • They may be individuals waiting for arraignment, trial, conviction, and/or sentencing, or they may be probation, parole, and bail bond violators.
  • Juveniles may be temporarily jailed to wait for transfer to juvenile facilities.
  • Mentally ill persons are often held in jails pending transfer to mental health facilities.

Table 6.6 lists these and other reasons for holding inmates in jails.

Jails are a generally neglected part of the corrections system. They frequently fail to meet minimum standards

Number of sentenced prisoners
55 or older38,90021,50010,8004,8001,9001,200500200
Note: Based on custody counts from National Prisoners Statistics and updated from jurisdiction counts by gender at yearend. Estimates by age derived from the Surveys of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional facilities, 1997. Estimates were rounded to the nearest 100.
1Includes American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.
2Excludes Hispanics.
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 13: Number of Sentenced Prisoners under State and Federal Jurisdiction by Gender, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age, 2002," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, July 2003

for space, care, and staffing and have to mix a wide range of inmates—hardened criminals awaiting trial, those with serious mental problems or addictions, drunks disturbing the peace, and those who are not yet convicted (and may never be). Because the stay in jail is usually brief, medical care, recreation, and opportunities for work or activity are frequently minimal.

Population in the Nation's Jails

Department of Justice statisticians Paige M. Harrison and Jennifer C. Karberg report on the U.S. jail population in "Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2002" (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, D.C., April 2003). At midyear 2002, 737,912 persons were under some form of jail supervision, either confined in jails or supervised outside jail facilities, up from 702,044 in 2001. Of those, 665,475 were being held in jail, while the remaining persons were in jail-supervised programs such as electronic monitoring or community service or other work programs.

For the year ending June 26, 2002, the average daily jail population was 652,082, up from 618,319 in 2000 and 509,828 in 1995. Between 1995 and 2002 the average daily population of female jail inmates rose from 51,300 to 76,817, while the male population increased from 448,000 to 581,441. Proportionally the number of female inmates grew from 10 percent of the jail inmate population to 11.7 percent, and the number of males decreased from 90 percent to 88.3 percent.

Minority groups accounted for a majority (54.5 percent) of local jail inmates in 2002. Non-Hispanic whites made up 43.8 percent of the jail population; non-Hispanic African-Americans, 39.8 percent; and Hispanics, 14.7 percent. Other races (Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives) accounted for 1.6

• receive individuals pending arraignment and hold them awaiting trial, conviction, or sentencing
• readmit probation, parole, and bailbond violators and absconders
• temporarily detain juveniles pending transfer to juvenile authorities
• hold mentally ill persons pending their movement to appropriate health facilities
• hold individuals for the military, for protective custody, for contempt, and for the courts as witnesses
• release convicted inmates to the community upon completion of sentence
• transfer inmates to Federal, State, or other authorities
• house inmates for Federal, State, or other authorities because of crowding of their facilities
• relinquish custody of temporary detainees to juvenile and medical authorities
• sometimes operate community-based programs as alternatives to incarceration
• hold inmates sentenced to short terms (generally under 1 year).
source: Allen J. Beck and Jennifer Karberg, "Jails," in Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2000, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC, 2001

percent. Among non-Hispanic African-Americans, the jail incarceration rate (740 per 100,000) was more than five times that of non-Hispanic whites (147 per 100,000) and almost three times the rate of Hispanics (256 per 100,000).

Most juveniles in correctional custody were housed in juvenile facilities. However, at midyear 2002 an estimated 7,248 persons under age 18 were kept in adult jails, most having been tried as adults or awaiting trial as adults in criminal court.

The Growing Jail Population

From 1995 to 2002 the number of jail inmates grew from 507,044 to 665,475, a rise in the jail incarceration rate from 193 to 231 jail inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. In June 2002 jails housed 33 percent of all incarcerated prisoners, the same as at midyear 2001. Since jail sentences

Type of facility
All facilitiesConfinement facilitiesCommunity-based facilities
Note: As of June 30, 2000, there were no persons under age 18 in federal facilities. Age information was not available for 1,471 state inmates.
*Includes facilities with the security designations super maximum, close, or high.
source: "Table 6.33: Prisoners under Age 18 in State and Private Adult Correctional Facilities, by Type of Facility, Security Level, and Region, United States, June 30, 2000," in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2002, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC, 2003

remained stable at about seven months, the dramatic growth of the local jail population seemed more related to the increased number of arrests than to longer sentences. In June 2002 jails were about 93 percent occupied.


Persons convicted of murder, burglary, or larceny/theft are most likely to be sent to a state prison. If the crime is a federal offense or was committed outside a state jurisdiction, the offender can be sentenced to a federal prison. Federal offenses include crimes that

  • Are committed against a federal institution (bank, post office, or federally insured credit union) or a federal officer (FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, or U.S. Treasury agent).
  • Are committed on the high seas, on government reservations or territories, or in other areas under federal jurisdiction, such as Washington, D.C.
  • Involve crossing state lines (kidnapping or transporting stolen automobiles, for example).
  • Involve interstate crime, such as telephone or mail fraud.

Prison Population

The BJS regularly surveys the nation's correctional facilities. The 2002 survey counted 2,166,260 prisoners. State and federal prisons housed two-thirds (1,440,655) of all persons incarcerated in the United States with the other third in local jails. Of those held in prisons, state prisons housed over 88.6 percent (1,277,127), while federal prisons held about 11.4 percent (163,528). These figures show a 2.5 percent increase in the state prison population and a 5.8 percent increase in the federal prison population over the previous year. (See Table 6.3.) As of June 30, 2000, there were 4,095 inmates under the age of 18 in state (3,927) and private adult (168) correctional facilities. More than half of these inmates (2,150) were incarcerated

Prisoners in custody on December 31
Total inmates in custodyFederalStateInmates in jail on June 30Incarceration rate1
Percent change,
Average annual increase,
Note: Counts include all inmates held in public and private adult correctional facilities.
1Number of prison and jail inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents at yearend.
2In 1999, 15 states expanded their reporting criteria to include inmates held in privately operated correctional facilities. For comparisons with previous years, the state count 1,137,544 and the total count 1,869,169 should be used.
3Total counts include federal inmates in nonsecure, privately operated facilities (6,598 in 2002, 6,515 in 2001 and 6,143 in 2000).
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 1: Number of Persons Held in State or Federal Prisons or in Local Jails, 1995–2002," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, July 2003

in the South, followed by the Northeast (760), the Midwest (699), and the West (486). (See Table 6.7.)

The rate of prisoners per 100,000 population has risen steadily while there has been a decline in the overall crime rate. Since 1995 the incarceration rate has risen from 601 per 100,000 to 701 per 100,000 in 2002. One in every 143 U.S. residents was incarcerated in a federal or state prison or a local jail in 2002. (See Table 6.8.)

In 2002 Maine had the highest yearly increase in the number of prisoners (11.5 percent), while Alaska saw the

Violent offenses596,100571,70024,400208,100267,800102,600
Other sexual assault87,60086,6001,00050,70021,30012,600
Other violent27,40025,5001,90011,70010,0004,700
Property offenses233,000213,10020,000101,80092,30032,500
Motor vehicle theft18,00017,3007006,9006,7004,200
Other property31,10029,5001,60014,70011,1004,500
Drug offenses246,100222,90023,20057,300139,70047,000
Public-order offenses2129,900121,6008,30056,00047,30022,300
Note: Data are for inmates with a sentence of more than 1 year under the jurisdiction of state correctional authorities.
1Includes nonnegligent manslaughter.
2Includes weapons, drunk driving, court offenses, commercialized vice, morals and decency charges, liquor law violations, and other public-order offenses.
3Includes juvenile offenses and unspecified felonies.
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 15: Estimated Number of Sentenced Prisoners Under State Jurisdiction, by Offense, Gender, Race, and Hispanic Origin, 2001," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, July 2003

largest decrease (3.8 percent). The two states with the most prisoners were also the country's largest: California (162,317) and Texas (162,003). By region, the West saw the highest increase in prisoners (3 percent), followed by the South (2.5 percent), with the Midwest and Northeast at 1.9 percent respectively. The South, the nation's most populous region, had the most prisoners overall (574,174), followed by the West (281,743), the Midwest (245,303), and the Northeast (175,907).



In 2002 women accounted for a total of 89,044 prisoners under state (76,200) and federal (12,844) correctional authorities. Of females in state prisons in 2001, 24,400 (32 percent) were convicted of violent offenses, 23,200 (30.4 percent) on drug offenses, and 20,000 (26.2 percent) on property offenses. (See Table 6.9.) From 1995 to 2001 the number of females in state prisons increased for violent offenses by 48.6 percent, for property offenses by 22.3 percent, and for drug offenses by 12.8 percent. (See Table 6.10.) Since 1995 the average annual percentage increase of female prisoners (5.2 percent) has outpaced that of male prisoners (3.5 percent). (See Table 6.11.)

In 2002 men accounted for a total of 1,291,326 prisoners under state (1,132,500) and federal (158,826) correctional authorities. Of males in state prisons in 2001, 571,700 (50.4 percent) were convicted of violent offenses,

All prisonersMale prisonersFemale prisoners
OffenseIncrease, 1995–2001Percent of totalIncrease, 1995–2001Percent of totalIncrease, 1995–2001Percent of total
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 16: Partitioning by Gender and Offense, the Growth of the Sentenced Prison Population under State Jurisdiction, 1995–2001," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, July 2003

222,900 (19.6 percent) on drug offenses, and 213,100 (18.8 percent) on property offenses. From 1995 to 2001 the number of males in state prisons increased for violent offenses by 63.9 percent, for public-order offenses by 20.8 percent, and for drug offenses by 15.2 percent. In 2002 the rate of sentenced male prisoners (912 per 100,000 males in the resident population) was significantly higher than the rate for sentenced females (61 per 100,000 females).

Race and Ethnicity

According to "Prisons in 2002," between 1995 and 2002, there were only slight changes in the percentages of federal or state prisoners by race and ethnicity. In 1995

All inmates
Percent change,
Average annual
Sentenced to more than 1 year
Percent change,
Incarceration rate *
*The number of prisoners with sentences of more than 1 year per 100,000 residents on December 31.
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 5: Prisoners under the Jurisdiction of State or Federal Correctional Authorities by Gender, 1995, 2001, and 2002," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin,July 2003

white inmates made up 33.5 percent of all state and federal prisoners, while blacks were 45.7 percent, and Hispanics were 17.6 percent. In 2002 white inmates were 34.2 percent of the prison population, blacks were 45.1 percent, and Hispanics were 18.1 percent. Of the 1,291,326 male prisoners under state or federal correctional authority in 2002, black males made up 45.4 (586,700) percent of the total, white males 33.8 percent (436,800), and Hispanic males 18.1 percent (235,000). Of the 89,044 female prisoners, black females made up 40.4 percent (36,000) of the total, white females 39.7 percent (35,400), and Hispanic females 16.8 percent (15,000).


Of the four offense categories (violent, property, drug, and public-order), the largest growth in state prisoners from 1995 to 2001 was among violent offenders. Of the 207,300 additional prisoners in state prisons during this period, violent offenders made up 63.1 percent (130,800). Public-order offenders were 20.4 percent (42,400) of the increase, drug offenders 14.8 percent (30,600), and property offenders 1.7 percent (3,600). (See Table 6.10.)

Among the 90,700 additional white inmates in state prison from 1995 to 2001, violent offenders made up 58.7 percent of the total, public-order offenders were 20 percent (18,000), and drug offenders were 17.9 percent (16,200). The black inmate population in state prisons grew during this period by 83,200. Violent offenders made up 56.9 percent of the increase (47,400), drug offenders 22.9 percent (19,100), and public-order offenders 20.2 percent

White prisonersBlack prisonersHispanic prisoners
OffenseIncrease, 1995–2001Percent of totalIncrease, 1995–2001Percent of totalIncrease, 1995–2001Percent of total
source: Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, "Table 17: Partitioning by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Offense, the Growth of the Sentenced Prison Population under State Jurisdiction, 1995–2001," in "Prisoners in 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, July 2003

(16,800). Of the additional 35,300 Hispanic inmates in state prison from 1995 to 2001, violent offenders were 81.5 percent of the total (29,900) and public-order offenders were 18.5 percent (6,800). (See Table 6.12.)

Between 1995 to 2001 the number of incarcerated violent offenders in federal prisons rose from 11,409 to 16,117, an increase of 41.3 percent. Federal inmates sentenced for property offenses in this period increased by 36 percent, from 7,842 to 10,664. The number of drug offenders in federal prisons rose from 52,782 in 1995 to 78,501 in 2001, an increase of 48.7 percent. The number of public order offenders in federal prisons increased by 132.8 percent, from 15,655 to 36,443.

Many inmates were in possession of a firearm during the offense for which they are currently serving time in prison, according to Firearm Use by Offenders (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2001). In 1997, among inmates in federal prisons, 15.5 percent of males and 6.2 percent of females carried a firearm during their current offense. Of male inmates in state prisons, 19.1 percent had carried a firearm compared to 7.3 percent of female inmates. Younger inmates were more likely to have carried a firearm when committing their current offense: 35.5 percent of state prisoners 20 years old or younger and 23 percent of federal prisoners in the same age group. (See Table 6.13.)

Mental Health

In 2000, 10 percent of all state inmates were receiving psychotropic medications, and one in eight state prisoners were in some type of mental health therapy or counseling, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Some 217,420 prisoners were confined in 155 state facilities specializing in psychiatric confinement.

Of state prison inmates, 22.1 percent of females confined to female-only facilities were receiving psychotropic medication as of mid-year 2000, compared to 8.7 percent

Prison inmates
Selected characteristicNumberPercent who possessed a firearm during current offenseNumberPercent who possessed a firearm during current offense
Race/Hispanic origin
20 or younger61,66335.5%93523.0%
55 or older29,98021.76,66713.0
Educational attainment
Some high school or less445,47916.8%25,64213.9%
High school diploma190,80516.721,29214.5
Some college110,12216.515,23315.1
College graduate27,64912.17,9638.3
United States983,87618.5%71,30716.9%
Latin America47,25714.514,6385.7
Military service
Did not serve907,14218.674,67614.4
source: Caroline Wolf Harlow, "Table 5: Possession of a Firearm During Current Offense, by Selected Characteristics for State and Federal Prison Inmates, 1997," in "Firearm Use by Offenders," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, November 2001

of male state prisoners in male-only facilities. Of state prisoners confined to facilities housing both males and females, 15.2 percent of inmates were receiving psychotropic medication as of June 30, 2000. Inmates in female-only facilities were also more likely to receive therapy or counseling in 2000 (27.1 percent), compared to inmates in male-only facilities (11.9 percent), and in institutions that housed both males and females (14.3 percent). (See Table 6.14.)


Compared to the general population, federal and state prisoners have a lower level of educational attainment. In 1997, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 18.4 percent of the general population 18 years or older had not completed high school. Inmates in state prisons had a rate of 39.7 percent, more than double the rate for the general population, while those in federal prisons had a rate of 26.5 percent. In the general population, 33.2 percent attained a high school diploma as their highest level of education. Among inmates in federal prisons the rate was 27 percent and in state prisons 20.5 percent. Prisoners were more likely than the general population to have earned a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, a test which indicates the same level of attainment as a high school graduate: 28.5 percent of state prisoners had a GED, while 22.7 percent of federal prisoners had a GED. In the general population, 26.4 percent went beyond high school to attend college but did not attain a degree. Among state prisoners 9 percent attended college, while 15.8 percent of federal prisoners had attended college. Twenty-two percent of the general population were college graduates, while only 8.1 percent of federal prisoners and 2.4 percent of state prisoners had college degrees. (See Table 6.15.)

About nine out of 10 state prisons offer inmates an educational program. All federal prisons offer educational programs of some kind. The most common programs available are secondary education, offered by 98.7 percent of federal prisons, basic adult education (97.4 percent), and vocational training programs (93.5 percent). Among state prisons 91.2 percent have an educational program. The most common programs are secondary education, offered by 83.6 percent of state prisons, basic adult education (80.4 percent), and vocational training programs (55.7 percent). (See Table 6.16.) About 52 percent of state prisoners and 57 percent of federal prisoners have taken a class while in prison.


At the end of 2002 nearly 4.74 million adults were on probation or parole in the United States, up from 3.2 million at the end of 1990. The total number of probationers in 2002 was 3,995,165. Fifty percent were convicted of felonies, 49 percent of misdemeanors, and 1 percent of other types of infractions. Twenty-four percent of probationers had drug law violations as their most serious offense. (See Table 6.17.)

Of probationers in 2002, 23 percent were female, compared to 21 percent in 1995. Whites comprised 55 percent of probationers in 2002, a slight increase from 53 percent in 1995, while blacks accounted for 31 percent of probationers, the same percentage as in 1995. In 2002 probationers of Hispanic origin represented 12 percent of all probationers, down from 14 percent in 1995.

In 2002, 753,141 adults were on parole. Almost all offenders on parole (96 percent) had served a felony sentence of one year or more. More than half of parolees in 2002 received mandatory release from prison as the result of a sentencing statute (requirement) or because of good-time provisions. Thirty-nine percent received parole as the result of a decision by a state parole board, 59 percent fewer than in 1990. Fourteen percent of all parolees in 2002 were women, up from 10 percent in 1995. Thirty-nine percent of adult parolees were white, 42 percent were black, with Hispanics making up 18 percent of parolees. (See Table 6.18.)

Number of inmates receiving—
24-hour mental health careTherapy/counselingPsychotropic medications
Facility characteristicNumberPercentNumberPercentNumberPercent
Facility operation
Authority to house
Males only13,0641.5%100,37111.9%74,7368.7%
Females only8301.514,74427.112,11922.1
Security level
Facility size2
1,500 or more6,2981.4%59,97012.8%45,2839.3%
Fewer than 100782.331311.02828.8
1Excludes inmates in mental health treatment in Florida for whom only statewide totals were reported.
2Based on the average daily population between July 1, 1999, and June 30, 2000.
source: Allen J. Beck and Laura M. Maruschak, Table 4: "Inmates Receiving Mental Health Treatment in State Confinement Facilities, by Facility Characteristic, June 30, 2000," in Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Mental Health Treatment in State Prisons, 2000, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Washington, DC, July 2001
Prison inmates
StateFederalLocal jail inmates
Educational attainment199719911997199119961989ProbationersGeneral population
8th grade or less14.2%14.3%12.0%11.0%13.1%15.6%8.4%7.2%
Some high school25.526.914.512.333.438.222.211.2
High school diploma20.521.827.025.925.924.034.833.2
Postsecondary/some college9.010.115.818.810.310.318.826.4
College graduate or more2.
Note: Probationers have been excluded from the general population. General population includes the noninstitutional population 18 or older. Detail may not add to 100% due to rounding.
*General Educational Development certificate.
…Not available in the Current Population Survey.
source: Caroline Wolf Harlow, "Table 1: Educational Attainment for State and Federal Prison Inmates, 1997 and 1991, Local Jail Inmates, 1996 and 1989, Probationers, 1995, and the General Population, 1997," in "Education and Correctional Populations," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, January 2003

Federal Clemency

The U.S. president is authorized under the constitution to grant pardons and commutations to those convicted of federal crimes. The U.S. Pardon Attorney evaluates all applications, investigates the cases, and makes recommendations. A pardon occurs after an individual has served his sentence and allows that person to regain any civil rights and trade or professional licenses he or she may have lost due to being a felon. A commutation reduces the prison time of an individual now serving his or her sentence. Between 1953 and 2002 there have been 5,275 pardons granted and 585 commutations. (See Table 6.19.)


The recidivism rate measures the degree to which inmates return to criminal behavior after their release from prison. In "Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994" (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, June 2002), authors Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D., and David J. Levin, Ph.D., released the findings of a study that tracked

State prisonsFederal prisonsPrivate prisonsLocal jails
Educational programs2000199520001995200019951999
With an education program91.2%88.0%100.0%100.0%87.6%71.8%60.3%
Basic adult education80.476.097.492.061.640.024.7
Secondary education83.680.398.7100.070.751.854.8
College courses26.731.480.568.827.318.23.4
Special education39.633.459.734.821.927.310.8
Vocational training55.754.593.573.
Study release programs7.
Without an education program8.812.
Number of facilities1,3071,278**2421102,819
Note: Detail may not add to total because facilities may have more than one educational program.
*Changed definitions prevent meaningful comparisons of the numbers of federal facilities, 1995 and 2000.
source: Caroline Wolf Harlow, "Table 3: Educational Programs Offered in State, Federal, and Private Prisons, 2000 and 1995, and Local Jails, 1999," in "Education and Correctional Populations," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, January, 2003

272,111 former inmates three years after their release from prison in 15 states—Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. Of prisoners tracked, over two-thirds (67.5 percent) were rearrested for a new offense during the three years after their release from prison. Of the 272,111 prisoners released in 1994, 46.9 percent were convicted of a new crime, and 25.4 percent were sentenced to prison for the new offense. Almost 52 percent of the 272,111 were back in prison, whether for a new crime or a technical violation of their release.

By offense, the highest rate of rearrest was for motor vehicle theft (78.8 percent), followed by selling stolen property (77.4 percent), larceny (74.6 percent), burglary (74 percent), and robbery (70.2 percent). The sale, use or possession of illegal weapons also accounted for an arrest rate of 70.2 percent. The lowest rates of rearrest in the three years following release from prison in 1994 were for homicide (40.7 percent), sexual assault other than rape (41.4 percent), rape (46 percent), and driving under the influence (51.5 percent).

Male prisoners released in 1994 were more likely to be rearrested (68.4 percent) than females (57.6 percent). African-Americans were more likely to be rearrested (72.9 percent) than were Hispanics (64.6 percent) and whites (62.7 percent). Inmates ages 25 to 29 (22.8 percent) and 30 to 34 (22.7 percent) were most likely to be rearrested, while inmates 45 years of age or older (7.5 percent) were least likely to re-offend in the three years after release from state prison. Of the 211,111 former inmates released in 1994, 7.6 percent were rearrested in a state other than the one that released them.

Arrest history made a difference in recidivism; the more arrests the prisoner had prior to release, the more likely the prisoner's rearrest. Of those with one arrest prior to their release, 41 percent were rearrested. About 47 percent of those with two prior arrests, 55 percent of those with three earlier arrests, and 82 percent of those with more than fifteen prior arrests (18 percent of all released prisoners) were rearrested within a three-year period.

Of 2002 parolees 45 percent successfully met the terms of their supervision, while 41 percent returned to prison either because of a parole violation or a new criminal offense. For those on probation in 2002, 14 percent returned to prison, a decrease from 21 percent in 1995.


Is prison the answer to crime? Is prison supposed to punish, or is it supposed to rehabilitate? It is certainly the primary method the government uses to show that it takes crime seriously and will not let it go unpunished. It keeps dangerously violent criminals off the street, which has very likely contributed somewhat to the drop in crime during the 1990s.

Prisoners are often considered society's failures, people—mostly men—who have failed in their relationships with their families, schools, and jobs. They suffer disproportionately from physical, drug, and alcohol abuse. They may have low self-esteem and exhibit hostility towards others, especially those in authority. Prisoners bring their own society into prison, which usually revolves around drugs, smuggling, extortion, predatory sexual behavior, and violence.

Many penologists (persons who study prison management and the reformation of criminals) believe that locking up greater numbers of offenders reduces the rate of crime. Mandatory sentencing and habitual-offender laws give longer sentences to those who have broken the law. If criminals are in prison, they are not on the streets committing crimes. Some experts believe longer sentences have acted as a deterrent and played a major role in the recent decline in criminal activity.

Characteristic of adults on probation199520002002
American Indian/Alaska Native111
Asian/Pacific Islander1--11
Status of probation
Direct imposition48%56%60%
Split sentence15119
Sentence suspended262522
Imposition suspended679
Status of supervision
Supervised out of state232
Type of offense
Other infractions221
Most serious offense
Sexual assault****2%
Domestic violence****7
Other assault****10
Drug law violations**2424
Driving while intoxicated161817
Minor traffic offenses**66
Adults entering probation
Without incarceration72%79%83%
With incarceration131614
Other types1552
Adults leaving probation
Successful completions62%60%62%
Returned to incarceration211514
With new sentence533
With the same sentence1386
Other unsuccessful2**1113
Note: For every characteristic there were persons of unknown status or type. Detail may not sum to total because of rounding.
**Not available.
--Less than 0.5%.
1Includes Native Hawaiians.
2In 1995 absconder and other unsucessful were reported among "other".
source: Lauren E. Glaze, "Table 4: Characteristics of Adults on Probation, 1995, 2000, and 2002," in "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, August 2003

Others disagree. In "Reforming Sentencing and Corrections for Just Punishment and Public Safety," (Sentencing and Corrections, National Institute of Justice,

American Indian/Alaska Native111
Asian/Pacific Islander1------
Status of supervision
Supervised out of state455
Sentence length
Less than 1 year6%3%4%
1 year or more949796
Type of offense
Adults entering parole
Discretionary parole50%37%39%
Mandatory parole455452
Adults leaving parole
Successful completion45%43%45%
Returned to incarceration414241
With new sentence121111
Other unsuccessful2**22
Note: For every characteristic there were persons of unknown status or type. Detail may not sum to total because of rounding.
--Less than 0.5%.
**Not available.
1Includes Native Hawaiians.
2In 1995 absconder and "other unsuccessful" statuses were reported among "other."
source: Lauren E. Glaze, "Table 7: Characteristics of Adults on Parole, 1995, 2000, and 2002," in "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2002," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, August 2003

No. 4, September 1999), authors Michael E. Smith and Walter J. Dickey reported on hearings by the Wisconsin Governor's Task Force on Sentencing and Corrections conducted in 1996, which focused on a Milwaukee neighborhood where public safety "was in serious disrepair." According to the police testimony at the hearings, at a certain high crime corner some "94 drug arrests were made within a 3-month period.… Despite the two-year prison terms routinely handed down by the sentencing judges (for drug offenses), the drug market continued to thrive at the intersection, posing

Fiscal yearPending from previous fiscal yearReceivedPardonsCommutationsDenied

risks to the safety of all who lived nearby or had to pass through on their way to work or school." According to the testimony, the incarceration of some 100 drug-offense felons "did not increase the public safety at the street corner."

As an alternative to incarceration, programs advocating restorative and community justice are based on principles that address the needs of victims, communities and offenders. As reported by Leena Kurki in "Incorporating Restorative and Community Justice Into American Sentencing and Corrections" (Sentencing and Corrections, National Institute of Justice, No. 3, September 1999), the basic principles of restorative justice are that crime involves disruptions in a three-dimensional relationship of victim, offender, and community; that because crime harms the victim and the community, the primary goals should be to repair that harm by healing the victim and community; that the victim, community, and offender should all participate in determining the response to crime; and that case disposition should be based primarily on the victim's and the community's needs.

Fiscal yearPending from previous fiscal yearReceivedPardonsCommutationsDenied
Note: Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the president to grant executive clemency for federal criminal offenses. The U.S. pardon attorney, in consultation with the attorney general's office, receives and reviews all petitions for executive clemency, initiates the necessary investigations, and prepares the recommendations of the attorney general to the president. Clemency may be a reprieve, remission of fine or restitution, commutation, or pardon. A "pardon," which is generally considered only after sentence completion, restores basic civil rights and may aid in the reinstatement of professional or trade licenses that may have been lost as a result of the conviction. A "commutation" is a reduction of sentence.
Commutations include remission of fines. Petitions denied also include those that are closed administratively. Cases in which multiple forms of relief were granted are counted in only one category. The figures presented in this table do not include clemency actions on draft resisters, or military deserters and absentees during the Vietnam war era.
1In inaugural years, these figures are for the outgoing administration.
2In addition to the six commutations, President Clinton granted one reprieve of an execution date during fiscal year 2000.
3In addition to the 40 commutations, President Clinton granted 1 reprieve of an execution date during fiscal year 2001.
source: "Table 5.73: Executive Clemency Applications for Federal Offenses Received, Disposed of, and Pending in the Office of the U.S. Pardon Attorney, Fiscal Years 1953–2002," in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2002, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC, 2003

One example of restorative justice is Victim-Offender Mediation, in which offenders meet with the victim(s) of their crime. These meetings, facilitated by a mediator, focus on the effects of the crime on the life of the victim and on the community at large. A restitution agreement is reached between the offender and the victim. Another example of restorative justice is Family Group Conferencing, which involves the meeting of the victim and the offender plus family, friends, co-workers and teachers of the victim and offender. According to Kurki, family group conferencing originated in New Zealand, where it became part of the juvenile justice system in 1989. As of 1999, about 30 percent of juvenile offenders in New Zealand were sent to family group conferencing instead of to juvenile court.

A Rand Corporation report, Diverting Children from a Life of Crime: Measuring Costs and Benefits (1996), found that programs helping children avoid crime were more cost-effective than imprisoning repeat offenders for long periods. The study concluded that a state government could prevent 157 crimes annually by investing $1 million in parent-training programs. They could prevent another 258 crimes by investing $1 million in graduation incentive programs. On the other hand, spending $1 million in constructing and operating new prisons for long-term prisoners would prevent only 60 crimes a year. A cost-benefit comparison seems to favor spending on early crime intervention rather than on construction of prisons.