7 Facts About the U.S. Criminal Justice System That Might Surprise You

posted by Chris Valentine

Did you know that 1.7 million children have parents in the U.S. prison system? 

That’s a stat that might surprise many. But you might find that there are other things about the prison system in the country that leave you wide-eyed and in a state of disbelief. Keep reading to learn about seven things about the U.S. criminal justice system that may catch you off guard.

1. Released Convicts Back in Custody Every Five Minutes

According to a report in The Independent, people who do their time and are released can often easily find themselves behind bars…even for minor infractions. In fact, convicts released from prison are taken into custody every five minutes. An offense as simple as breaking curfew by heading to the supermarket at night to pick up some food can result in a return to prison.

2. 800+ Kids Facing Lifetime Behind Bars

The same report from The Independent notes that over 800 children in the U.S. are serving life sentences in prison with no chance of parole.

3. 5.5 Million Persons in Prison, Jail, or on Parole or Probation

In 2020, more than 5.5 million persons were in prison, jail, or on parole or probation. While the prison population per 100,000 persons dropped for the 14th consecutive year in 2021, the jail population climbed after a drop in 2020, according to USA Facts. According to the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition, meanwhile, the country confines a greater percentage of its population than any other nation worldwide.

4. Firearm Death Rate

USA Facts adds that firearm suicides and homicides were key factors in the firearm death rate growing from 13.7 to 14.8 deaths per 100,000 persons between 2020 and 2021. This development came on the heels of firearm deaths per 100,000 persons growing 13% between 2019 and 2020. The same source notes that preliminary 2022 information indicates suicides comprised 56% of firearm deaths and homicides comprised 41%.

5. Almost 1 Million Police Officers

There were 924,329 police officers in 2021, which added up to 6% of the total tally of state and local government full-time workers. USA Facts adds that the number of police officers per 100,000 persons declined 6.9% from 2009 to 2021.

6. Many Imprisoned People Are Poor

Many people who are imprisoned are poor. According to the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition, most of the people behind bars lived in poverty before their arrests. In fact, 60% of women and 40% of men doing time in state prisons were unemployed prior to their arrests. And of those who did bring in some income, 37% of women and 28% of men earned south of $600 per month prior to their arrests. Add to that the fact that eight of 10 persons accused of crimes can’t afford to hire a lawyer.

7. Under the Influence of Drugs

Did you know one-third of inmates acknowledged in a 1997 survey that they committed their crimes while under the influence of illegal drugs? In a 2002 survey, meanwhile, women prisoners in New York said they had substance abuse issues before their arrests, according to the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition.

These are some of the more startling facts about the criminal justice system in the U.S. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to avoid being on the receiving end of the long arm of the law. But there are other times when you might find yourself in trouble due to no fault of your own. If you’re facing charges, you must find a good criminal law lawyer. You need someone who will give you the best chance of getting a favorable outcome.

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