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July 8, 2024

CT’s incarceration rate ranks low in U.S., high in the world, report says

José Luis Martínez / CT Mirror Note: Data source specifies that the information used is the number of people in state prisons, local jails, federal prisons, and other systems of confinement from each U.S. state and territory per 100,000 people in that state or territory and the incarceration rate per 100,000 in all countries with a total population of at least 500,000. Source: Prison Policy Initiative

Connecticut had a higher incarceration rate than countries such as Canada and France as of 2022, but had the ninth lowest rate among U.S. states, according to data released last month by the Prison Policy Initiative, a New England-based policy think tank.

There were 326 incarcerated people for every 100,000 individuals in Connecticut in 2022, compared to the U.S. rate of 608, with a high of 1,067 in Louisiana and a low of 241 in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the report points out that the United Kingdom, Portugal, Canada, France, Belgium and Italy, among other founding NATO countries, all had rates lower than 150 per 100,000 residents.

The report notes that different years of data were used for each country depending on data availability, so some comparisons to Connecticut's 2022 data would be out of date. One country only had data as far back as 2004 and another 22 countries only had data before 2020. The other 149 countries had data from at least 2020.

What differs in the Prison Policy Initiative's analysis from other sources such as The Sentencing Project, is that its rate calculation includes incarcerated individuals in pretrial detention and who have been sentenced by the state, criminal legal system-involved people involuntarily committed to other kinds of confinement in each state, people in federal prison, and other groups.

The Sentencing Project’s incarceration rate for Connecticut is displayed as 170 per 100,000 residents in 2022, but that only includes those that were sentenced — not those in pretrial — and the group only uses data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Was Connecticut’s rate always this low? Not quite.

In every day of this year’s legislative session there were at least 10,400 incarcerated people across the state’s Department of Correction facilities.

It’s an increase from a pandemic low of about 8,900 in April 2021. Two years before then, there were at least 13,000 incarcerated individuals across the state and over a decade before there were almost 20,000.

The steep decline of the incarcerated population during the pandemic can be attributed to discretionary releases and a drop in arrests and admissions to correctional facilities. But there was a yearslong decline before the onset of the pandemic. Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy attributes some of the decreases to legal reforms in the past decade, such as reducing penalties for simple drug possession.

In the years since though, the number of criminal court cases that were closed have increased, potentially increasing the number of individuals that are sentenced.

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