The Growth, Scope, and Spatial Distribution of People With Felony Records in the United States, 1948-2010

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The steep rise in U.S. criminal punishment in recent decades has spurred scholarship on the collateral consequences of imprisonment for individuals, families and communities. While several excellent studies have estimated the former prisoner population and the collateral consequences they face, far less is known about the size and scope of the total ex-felon population beyond prison walls, including those who serve their sentences on probation or in jail. This article develops state-level estimates based on demographic life tables and extends previous national estimates of the U.S. ex-felon population to 2010. We estimate that exprisoners comprise 2.2 percent of the U.S. voting age population and 10.4 percent of the African American male voting age population; ex-felons comprise 6.4 percent of the voting age population and 25.4 percent of the African American male voting age population. We then discuss the far-reaching consequences of the spatial concentration and enormous growth of these groups since 1980.


© Population Association of America 2017.

Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-017-0611-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.