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Jails - Characteristics Of Jail Inmates

percent private hispanics census

In contrast with the growth of jail populations, the characteristics of jail inmates have remained predictably stable. Jails are predominantly repositories for young males, minorities, drug addicts, the mentally ill, the poor, and the down and out. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2000) male inmates made up 89 percent of the local jail inmate population in 1999. Females made up 11 percent of jail inmates. However, since 1990, the female jail population has grown at a faster pace (6.8%) compared with males (4.2%). By midyear of 1999, local jails held approximately 1 in every 181 adult men and 1 in 1,538 women in the country. Minorities are a majority in jails. Census data show that African American (non-Hispanics) made up 41.5 percent of the local jail population in 1999. White (non-Hispanics) made up 41.3 percent, Hispanics 15.5 percent, and other races (Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives) constituted 1.7 percent. This translates into the fact that African Americans are six times more likely than whites, two and one-half times as likely than Hispanics, and sixteen times more likely than Asians to be incarcerated in local jails (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). Census data for 1999 indicate that over half of all jail inmates (54%) were awaiting court action on their current charges. The remainder (278,400) were serving a jail sentence, awaiting sentencing, or were serving jail time for a probation or parole violation. Examining private jails, the 1999 Census notes that almost fourteen thousand inmates were jailed in privately owned or operated facilities. While the percentage of inmates housed in private jails is still small when compared with public institutions (2.3%), private jails are growing at a remarkably brisk rate. Census data reflect that between 1993 and 1999, privately owned or operated jails increased from seventeen to forty-seven. States with the largest number of jailed inmates in private facilities are Texas (3,469), Tennessee (2,278), Florida (1,931), and Pennsylvania (1,592). Finally, in 1999 jails held almost ten thousand persons under the age of eighteen. Over 90 percent of these young persons had been convicted or were being held for trial as adults in criminal court.

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