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Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Federal Prisoner Statistics Collected under the First Step Act, 2021

This is the third report as required under the First Step Act of 2018 (FSA; P.L. 115-391). It includes data on federal prisoners provided to BJS by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for calendar year 2020. Under the FSA, BJS is required to report on selected characteristics of persons in prison, including marital, veteran, citizenship, and English-speaking status; education levels; medical conditions; and participation in treatment programs. Also, BJS is required to report facility-level statistics, such as the number of assaults on staff by prisoners, prisoners’ violations of rules that resulted in time credit reductions, and selected facility characteristics related to accreditation, on-site health care, remote learning, video conferencing, and costs of prisoners’ phone calls.

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COVID-19 Spurs 25% Drop in Inmates Held in Local Jails

Number of inmates confined in local jails from June 2019 to June 2020

Special Report: Impact of COVID-19 on the Local Jail Population, January-June 2020

Note: Data are last weekday in June 2019 and the last weekday for each month from January to June 2020. In full report, see table 1 for counts and appendix table 1 for standard errors.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Census of Jails, 2019; and Annual Survey of Jails, 2020

  • From March to June 2020, about 208,500 inmates received expedited release in response to COVID-19.

  • During the pandemic, jail facilities became less crowded, as indicated by the decrease in occupied bed space from 81% at midyear 2019 to 60% at midyear 2020.

  • The number of inmates held for a misdemeanor declined about 45% since midyear 2019, outpacing the decline in the number of inmates held for a felony (down 18%).

  • The percentage of inmates held for a felony increased from 70% at midyear 2019 to 77% at midyear 2020.

  • From March to June 2020, jails conducted 215,360 inmate COVID-19 tests. More than 11% of these tests were positive.

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