HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy
Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, HKS; Professor of Sociology, FAS; Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor, Radcliffe


In the United States, almost seven million people are under correctional control. This includes 2.3 million held in the nation’s jails, prisons, detention centers, and involuntary commitment facilities. It also includes 4.5 million people in community corrections—3.7 million on probation and more than eight hundred thousand on parole (Sawyer and Wagner 2019). That works out to be roughly 2,160 per hundred thousand adult residents (Kaeble and Cowhig 2018). Among low-income people of color, who are far more likely to be caught in the system’s web, the rate is much higher.1 Although these figures represent modest declines over the past decade in the population under supervision, by historical standards, current rates are still extraordinarily high. They are roughly seven times higher than at any other period in the United States between 1900 and 1975 (and probably since the genesis of the prison in the nineteenth century), and higher per capita than any other nation, including China and Russia.


Smith, Sandra Susan, and Jonathan Simon. "Exclusion and Extraction: Criminal Justice Contact and the Reallocation of Labor." RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation of the Social Sciences 6.1 (March 2020): 1-27.