Earlier this month The Vera Institute of Justice released a report In Our Own Backyard: Confronting Growth and Disparities in American Jails.
Data compiled for the report showed a marked and rapid increase in local jail populations in rural and suburban counties. As reported in The Washington Post:
The Vera Institute of Justice in New York compiled the data using federal statistics. The organization found that, since 1970, the jail population has expanded sevenfold in small counties, more than twice as fast as it has in large counties. On a typical day in 2014, those large counties had an average of 271 inmates in jails per 100,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64. In small counties, the figure was 446 inmates.
These days, not only are more people being booked in jails, they are also staying longer. In 1978, according to the Vera Institute, the average inmate waited just nine days in jail in 1978. Today, the average stay in jail lasts more than three weeks.
The report from the Vera Institute focused on locally administered jails rather than prisons. While policymakers and the press discuss prisons more frequently, local jails are where the vast majority of Americans who are locked up go.