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Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EDT Bureau of Justice Statistics
SUNDAY, July 18, 2004 Contact: Stu Smith 202/307-0784
  After hours: 301-983-9354


WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than half of the nation's 665,475 local jail inmates as of June 30, 2002, were on probation, parole or pre-trial release at the time of their arrest, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Forty-one percent had a current or prior sentence for a violent offense, and almost a quarter (24 percent) had three or more prior incarcerations in jail or prison.

An estimated 156,000 jail inmates were held on drug charges, about 42,000 more than the 114,000 drug offenders held in 1996. Drug offenders, up 37 percent, represent the largest source of jail population growth. About two-thirds of the growth in inmates held in local jails for drug violations was due to an increased number of persons charged with drug trafficking. In 2002, an estimated 76,400 jail inmates were charged with drug trafficking, up from 47,700 in 1996.

Two-thirds of the 2002 jail inmates said they were regular drug users. More than half of those inmates who had been convicted reported having used drugs in the month before their current offense. Almost a third said they were using drugs at the time of their offense. An estimated 66 percent of the jail inmates reported using alcohol at least once a week for a month, and 35 percent were under the influence at the time of the current offense. Three out of every four convicted jail inmates were alcohol or drug-involved at the time of their current offense.

More than 60 percent of the jail inmates were members of racial or ethnic minorities, the same as in 1996. An estimated 40 percent of those in jail were black, 19 percent Hispanic of any race, 1 percent American Indian, 1 percent Asian and 3 percent were members of more than one racial or ethnic group. About 36 percent were white.

Female inmates comprised almost 12 percent of the jail population on June 30, 2002, up from 10 percent in 1996. Almost 30 percent were being held for drug law violations, compared to 24 percent of the male inmates.

More than 50 percent of the women in jail said they had been physically or sexually abused during their lives, compared to a little more than 10 percent of the men.

Fifty-six percent of all jail inmates said they had grown up in a single-parent household or with a guardian. About 12 percent had lived in a foster home or institution.

Thirty-one percent of the jail inmates had grown up with a parent or guardian who abused alcohol or drugs, and 46 percent had a family member who had been incarcerated.

These findings are based on a recently completed survey of a nationally representative sample of nearly 7,000 jail inmates. Conducted every five to six years since 1972, the survey provides a profile of offenders held in the nation's 3,365 local jails. Unlike state and federal prisons, jails typically house persons pending arraignment or trial and persons sentenced to short terms (generally less than one year).

More than half of inmates in 2002 were held following a conviction on new charges (37 percent) or prior charges following a revocation of probation or parole (18 percent). An estimated 16 percent of inmates were held on a prior conviction and were awaiting trial on new charges, and 28 percent of inmates were detained pending arraignment or trial for a new charge only.

The special report, "Profile of Jail Inmates, 2002," (NCJ-201932), was written by BJS statistician Doris J. James. Following publication, this document can be accessed at:


The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and two offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed program. Information about OJP programs, publications, and conferences is available on the OJP website, www.ojp.usdoj.gov.

Date Published: July 18, 2004