Emails, E. Ann Carson, statistician, Corrections Unit, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, Oct. 1, 2015

8:42 a.m.

Oct. 1, 2015

The Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes an annual report on all four correctional populations (jail, probation, prison, parole). The most recent is from 2013: In Table 1, you will see that we have 2.2 million persons incarcerated (731,200 in local jails; 1,574,700 in state or federal prisons) and 4,751,400 under community supervision (3,910,600 in probation; 853,200 in parole).  If you look at Table 2, you will see that this equates to 2,830 persons per 100,000 U.S. adult (ages 18 or older) residents, or approximately 2.8% of U.S. adult residents under any type of correctional supervision.


So while the statement you cited below uses the (approximately) correct statistics, it is misleading in several ways. First, not all of those people under correctional supervision have been convicted. Second, these counts include all offenses, not just non-violent drug offenses.  Particularly in the state prison population, the percentage of persons sentenced to more than one year of imprisonment for drug offenders is low (15.7%) and the majority (54%) are violent offenders. If you want to get more detail on the offense, conviction status, or demographic characteristics of the different correctional populations, please refer to the following publications:


Please let me know if you have additional questions.


Thank you,




E. Ann Carson, Ph.D.


Corrections Unit

Bureau of Justice Statistics

U.S. Department of Justice


From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin) []

Sent: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 2:30 PM

To: McCarthy, Kara

Subject: More on the Texas claim, below


Hello again.


The official’s office offered this as the basis for his claim: According to law enforcement data we have approximately 2.2 million people in jail in America and another 5 million on probation and parole. That is roughly 2.5% of the total population that has been convicted of a crime including non-violent drug offenses.”


My additional questions:


Do these numbers hold up?


Does this statement factually back up the claim?








 From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 11:50 AM

Subject: FW: Urgently seeking best available data for a fact check in Texas


Good afternoon.


I write as we try to check a claim that 15 percent of the population, in estimate, commits 100 percent of the crime.


I am hoping the bureau has helpful information. Stephen Fischer of the FBI suggested we write, which reminded me that I’d sent an inquiry some time ago (evidently to the wrong email box). I am hoping to nail this very soon.







W. Gardner Selby

Reporter / News

Austin American-Statesman

PolitiFact Texas