Related to a Criminal?

A study done in 2018 stated that about 113 million American adults (total US population in 2018 is 327 million) have an immediate family member who is formerly or currently incarcerated. This is in recent, modern times, not counting a possible ancestor from the 1800s. It was investigated by the (a criminal justice and immigration reform advocacy group) along with Cornell University. They surveyed a group of more than 4,000 Americans.

It concluded that 1 in 7 adults has had an immediate family member in a jail for more than one year and that 1 in 34 adults had a relative in jail / prison for more than 10 years.

Breaking down the relationship, it turns out 1 in 4 adults had a sibling in jail at some time. It was 1 in 5 had a parent and 1 in 8 had one of their own children in jail. The survey showed there is approximately 6.5 million adults with an immediate family member currently in a jail or prison.

It showed also that those people having a family member currently in jail tended to have a lower yearly income. Another interesting finding had 49 percent of adults living in the Southern and Western states have had an immediate family member incarcerated for at least one night in jail or prison, compared to the national average of 45 percent.

Family members are directly affected by a relative in jail. There costs such as bail, court fees, attorney fees and fines. Also if the jailed person was providing financial support that is lost while the person is in jail.

Jail and prison populations in the United States are four times higher today than in 1980, with more than 1.5 million people in state or federal prisons on any given day, more than any other nation.

Add all the types of institutions within the American criminal justice system there are almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals and prisons in the U.S. territories (such as Guam, Virgin Islands, etc).

Not all sitting in a jail are convicted. Some have just been arrested and will make bail within hours or days, while many others are too poor to make bail and remain behind bars until their trial. Only a small number (less than 150,000 on any given day) have been convicted, and are generally serving misdemeanors sentences under a year.

These huge numbers of prisoners in the last 20 years are due mostly to a crackdown on drug offenders. Look at 1925 during the years of Prohibition, there was just under 92,000 prisoners, in 1954 there were about 183,000 prisoners and by 1978 there were about 263,000 prisoners. With those numbers, fewer people would have been related to a criminal.

By 2018, the percentage of family members related to a criminal is enormous. So if you do by chance come across an ancestor who served prison time, remember that was a small percentage decades ago.

Photos: Sedgwick County, Kansas Jail Prisoners; Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida and in 1900 Colorado State Prisoners.

Related Blogs:

Finding a Federal Prisoner

Black Sheep of the Family

The Sinister Side

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