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Our Crowded Jails: A National Plight

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1988
Jail overcrowding is a serious national problem that affects not only jail management, but the functioning of the whole criminal justice system.

In 1986, jails with a capacity of over 100 were operating at 108 percent of capacity. Jail overcrowding increases costs, staff and inmate tension, and problems in management and operation. In many cases, courts have found conditions of confinement unconstitutional and demanded remedial action. Jail crowding adversely affects public safety when there is insufficient space for detainees and interferes with the transfer of inmates to and from court appearances. In addition, as jail space decreases, the Federal prisoner population grows. Despite public safety concerns and public sentiment favoring incarceration, jails are not a popular political issue and jail construction often does not receive funding priority. Mandatory sentencing guidelines, drunk driving legislation and court delays have further contributed to jail overcrowding. The solution of jail overcrowding will require Federal, State, and local efforts.

Date Published: June 1, 1988