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New Sentencing Project report addresses "How Many People Are Spending Over a Decade in Prison?"

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

The Sentencing Project has long done a lot of great work on long sentences, especially through various reports on life sentences (examples here and here). Today, The Sentencing Project has a notable new publication looking at persons serving sentences of a decade or longer. This new report is titled with a question: "How Many People Are Spending Over a Decade in Prison?". But the subtitle of the report provides this answer: "In 2019, over half of the people in U.S. prisons — amounting to more than 770,000 people — were serving sentences of 10 years or longer — a huge jump from 2000." Here are other "key findings" from the start of the report:

  • Nearly one in five people in U.S. prisons—over 260,000 people—had already served at least 10 years in 2019. This is an increase from 133,000 people in 2000—which represented 10% of the prison population in that year.

  • In California, 29% of imprisoned people had already served at least 10 years in 2019. In Washington, DC, the level was even higher in 2020, at 39%. By 2021 in Texas, 25% of imprisoned people had served at least a decade.

  • Over 770,000 people in U.S. prisons were serving sentences of 10 years or longer in 2019—56% of the total prison population. This is an increase from 587,000 people in 2000—which represented 44% of the prison population in that year.

  • The 12 U.S. jurisdictions where two-thirds or more of the prison population are serving sentences of at least a decade are: Georgia, West Virginia, Alabama, Montana, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, and Washington, DC.

  • In 2019, Black Americans represented 14% of the total U.S. population, 33% of the total prison population, and 46% of the prison population who had already served at least 10 years.

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