Law / Crime / Courts

The Demographics 

of U.S. Law Enforcement

---- Police and Arrest Statistics ----

(RP News) -- 12/2020 - According to the 2008 census, there are approximately 877 law enforcement agencies in the state of Illinois employing about 41,270 sworn police officers, or about 321 officers for every 100,000 residents. Missouri has an estimated 14,554 officers working for 576 law enforcement agencies, with fewer officers than Illinois per 100,000 population, at 244.

No. of full-time officers. Graph courtesy of statista.
    Nationwide there were about 18,000 law enforcement agencies employing approximately 697,200 officers in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The numbers peaked at 708,569 in 2008, and hit a low in 2013 of 626,942. See: Number of full-time officers.

Needless to say, where an individual who is arrested ends up spending time, on probation, or in treatment of some kind depends on the severity of the incident and many other factors.

The American Jail Association places the confinement of arrested individuals into three categories: 1) Lockups -- often located at a police station or in a designed area of the building. 2) Jails -- which are essentially correctional facilities run by local law enforcement agencies. These are categorized further into mega jails (1,000+ capacity), large jails (250-999), medium jails (50-249), and small jails (1-49). 3) Prisons -- which house inmates for longer periods of time.

Crime rate data. Graph courtesy of macrotrends
    "In 2007, the American Jail Association published Who’s Who in Jail Management, Fifth Edition, which reported that there were 3,096 counties in the United States, which were being served by 3,163 jail facilities. At that time, the total rated capacity of these facilities stood at 810,966," the association states.

The AJA calls the correctional system in the United States one of the largest in the world and so administratively complex that determining exactly how many people are incarcerated is not always clear.

"The most commonly cited statistic is that are about 2.3 million inmates on any given day. This statistic comes from a survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which found that on June 30, 2009, the United States housed 203,233 Federal prisoners, 1,326,547 state prisoners, and 767,620 detainees in local jails," the AJA states. "In addition, it is estimated that more than 80,000 youth are held in juvenile detention facilities on any given day. Before being deported, about 400,000 people a year pass through our Nation’s immigration detention system, which is run principally by the Department of Homeland Security. BJS also estimates that during a year’s time 12-13 million people are processed through the approximately 3,100 jail facilities throughout the Nation."

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, the Illinois crime rate for 2018 was 404.13 per 100,000 population, representing a 76.36% decline form 2017. In 2017 the rate was 436, a 0.11% decline from 2016. In 2016, however, the rate was 436.7, an increase over the previous year of 12.69%. In 2015 the rate was 387.53, an increase of 4.49% from 2014. See: Illinois Crime Rate 1979-2018.

While Illinois rate showed a bump in 2016-17, overall rates have declines significantly since the early 1990s, peaking in 1991 at 1,039 arrests per 100,000 people.

The FBI's UCR report for 2019 shows the numbers continuing to drop.

"Preliminary figures indicate that law enforcement agencies throughout the nation showed an overall decrease of 3.1 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for the first 6 months of 2019 when compared with figures for the same time in 2018," the FBI states in its preliminary report. "The violent crime category includes murder, rape (revised definition), robbery, and aggravated assault. The number of property crimes in the United States from January to June of 2019 dropped 5.6 percent when compared with data for the same time period in 2018. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Arson is also a property crime, but data for arson are not included in property crime totals due to fluctuations in reporting. Figures for the first six months of 2019 indicate that arson decreased 12.5 percent when compared with 2018 figures for the same time period.

Crime data from the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division for 2019 for all 50 states is available here. Data from previous years, going back to 1995, is available here.

U.S. Incarceration Rates

Remain Highest in the World

Advocacy Groups Say Reform Efforts Don't Go Far Enough

By Steve Rensberry

RP News

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 12/6/2020 - The United States continues to lead the world in incarceration rates, with approximately 2.2 million people currently living their lives in the country's prisons and jails, according to researchers at The Sentencing Project.

Source: The Sentencing Project
    Unfortunately, progress toward reform remains slow or even nonexistent in many states.     "This follows a nearly 700 percent growth in the prison population between 1972 and 2009," the organization says, highlighting an online report available here. The prison population has stabilized in recent years, it says, largely through pragmatic changes in policy and practice, with a 9 percent decrease since peaking in 2009

The total prison population (state and federal) was approximately 1.4 million at the start of 2019. Adding another 740,700 in jail, 874,800 on parole, and 3,673,100 on probation raises the total number of people under control of the U.S. Corrections System to 6,613,500 individuals.

"For more than a decade, the political climate of criminal justice can be seen in a variety of legislative, judicial, and policy changes that have successfully decreased incarceration without adverse impacts on public safety," the organization says. It cites Proposition 47 which California voters passed in 2014, in which certain lower level crimes were reclassified to misdemeanors; as well as reform efforts targeting the Rockefeller drug laws in 2009; the Fair Sentencing Act, passed in 2010, reducing sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses; and a decision in 2014 by the United States Sentencing Commission to reduce excessive sentences for up to 46,000 people in prison for federal drug offenses. See: criminal justice facts.

    Not all states are seeing the same results, however, with six states having seen no reduction from peak levels, and 25 states seeing prison reductions of less than 10 percent. The states of Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oregon actually increased, recording their highest prison populations ever in 2018.

Reforms have been the exception for anyone imprisoned for violent crimes, such as burglary, robbery, assault, rape or murder. "Overall, the number of people imprisoned for a violent offense has only declined by 2 percent between the year 2009 and 2017, despite substantial declines in violence since the mid-1990s," the organization states in its publication, U.S. Prison Decline: Insufficient to Undo Mass Incarceration.

Why are so many Americans in prison? One common view is that longer sentences and an overzealous drug war have played a big part, which they have, but Forham Law School Professor John Pfaff cites other significant trends, namely a trend by district attorneys to file an increasing number of felony charges, in effect becoming much more aggressive and sending far more people to prison.

"I can't tell you why they're doing that," Pfaff said, in a 2015 article by Leon Neyfakh for slate.comWhy So Many Americans are in Prison? A Provocative New Theory. "No one's really got an answer to that yet. But it does seem that the number of felony cases filed shoots up very strongly, even as the number of arrests goes down."

Pfaff cites data showing a sharp rise in crime and the prison population from 1975-1991, with violent crime rising by 400 percent from 1960-1991, and property crime by 200 percent. He estimates that as much as half of the prison growth during that period could be attributed to rising crime.

Source: The Sentencing Project
The interesting thing was that from 1991-2010 crime was on the decline, and fewer people were being arrested. The prison population, however, kept climbing.     "What appears to happen during this time—the years I look at are 1994 to 2008, just based on the data that’s available—is that the probability that a district attorney files a felony charge against an arrestee goes from about 1 in 3, to 2 in 3. So over the course of the ’90s and 2000s, district attorneys just got much more aggressive in how they filed charges. Defendants who they would not have filed felony charges against before, they now are charging with felonies," Pfaff states.

One possible explanation, he said, is that the crime boom made the prosecutor's position somewhat of a "launch-pad position" with respect to political ambitions, so appearing to be "tough on crime" was important -- even though crime was going down. The data is unclear, however.

The Sentencing Project cites the following in a fact sheet about prisons:

  • The number of people incarcerated in state and federal prisons increased by 9.7% from 1,391,261 to 1,526,792 between 2000 and 2015.
  • In addition to the nearly 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons, there were 721,300 people in local jails in 2015, yielding a total incarcerated population of 2.2 million.
  • Between 2010 and 2015 the number of people in prison decreased by 4.9%.
  • 1 in every 115 adults in America was in prison or jail in 2015.4.6 million people were on probation or parole in 2015 for a total of 6.7 million people in America under some form of criminal justice supervision.
  • The 2015 U.S. incarceration rate of 670 people per 100,000 population is the highest in the world.

Sixth Former Corrections 

Officer Pleads Guilty 

to Federal Offenses

TENNESSEE - (DOJ) - 11/24/2020 - Former Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) Corporal Tommy Morris, 29, pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up the beating of an inmate and to encouraging other officers to provide false information to investigators, the Justice Department has announced.

“The State of Tennessee entrusted this defendant with the responsibility to act lawfully as a corrections officer by supervising those in his chain of command and by treating inmates humanely and in a manner that complies with the U.S. Constitution and other laws,” Assistant Attorney General (Civil Rights Division) Eric Dreiband said. “Instead of acting lawfully, this defendant violated the public trust, stood by and did nothing as junior officers unjustly beat an inmate, lied repeatedly about the beating, and tried to persuade other corrections officers to lie about what happened. This defendant’s criminal misconduct violates both our law and common decency, and the U.S. Department of Justice will not stand for it. The Justice Department will continue to work hard to ensure that all Americans are held accountable for breaking the law, especially those who abuse their position of authority in the law to do so.”

With his guilty plea, Morris admitted that, on Feb. 1, 2019, he and other correctional officers entered the cell of R.T., an inmate in the mental health unit at the Northwest County Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tennessee. Morris stood by as a junior officer instructed another officer to cover the surveillance camera in the cell. Morris then watched as three officers punched R.T. in retaliation for R.T. spitting earlier.

After the officers left R.T.’s cell, Morris, who was the ranking officer, suggested that they should falsely claim that R.T. injured himself while he was on suicide watch. Morris and another officer then directed the others to adopt the false and misleading story. The officers agreed to cover up the unlawful use of force on inmate R.T.

Morris knew that the officers’ use of force should be reported to TDOC authorities, but he did not report the incident, fill out any paperwork, or instruct any of the other officers to take those steps. Instead, when a junior correctional officer asked Morris if he needed to fill out any paperwork, Morris falsely claimed that it would be handled and there was no need to do anything.

With the guilty plea, Morris admitted that he violated 18 U.S.C. § 371 when he conspired to cover up the beating of R.T. and that he violated 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b) (3) when he knowingly encouraged correctional officers to provide investigators with false and misleading information. The maximum penalty for the conspiracy offense is five years imprisonment and 20 years imprisonment for the obstruction offense.

Previously, former TDOC Correctional Officers Nathaniel Griffin, Tanner Penwell, Carl Spurlin Jr., Cadie McAlister, and Jonathan York entered guilty pleas for criminal offenses arising out of the assault of inmate R.T. Morris is the sixth and final defendant to enter a guilty plea.

This case was investigated by the Memphis Division of the FBI with the support of the TDOC, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rebekah J. Bailey of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Pritchard of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee.


More Than 300 Face Federal

 Charges For Crimes Committed

 During Demonstrations

(DOJ) - 9/27/2020 - The Department of Justice announced this past week that more than 300 individuals in 29 states and Washington, D.C., have been charged for crimes committed “adjacent to or under the guise of” peaceful demonstrations since the end of May.

To date, of the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAOs), more than 40 USAOs have filed federal charges alleging crimes ranging from attempted murder, assaulting a law enforcement officer, arson, burglary of a federally-licensed firearms dealer, damaging federal property, malicious destruction of property using fire or explosives, felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, unlawful possession of a destructive device, inciting a riot, felony civil disorder, and others.

“Violent opportunists have exploited these demonstrations in various ways,” officials stated in a press release about the charges.

Approximately 80 individuals have been charged with offenses relating to arson and explosives. Approximately 15 individuals have been charged with damaging federal property. In some instances, these individuals are alleged to have set fires to local businesses as well as city and federal property, which will regrettably incur millions of taxpayer dollars to repair damages to the Portland Courthouse, Nashville Courthouse, Minneapolis Police Third Precinct, Seattle Police East Precinct, and local high school in Minnesota; and, to replace police cruisers in South Carolina, Washington, Rhode Island, Georgia, Utah, and other states.

Corporate and local businesses were also targeted, including a Target Corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, Boost Mobile Store in Milwaukee, Champ Sports Store in Tampa, and local restaurants including a pizza parlor in Los Angeles and a sushi bar in Santa Monica. Through these acts, these individuals have shown minimal regard to their communities and for the safety of others and themselves.

In Washington, D.C., outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, a man was engulfed in flames after he poured a liquid from a gas can onto three U.S. Supreme Court Police vehicles; he suffered severe burns. In Virginia Beach, authorities identified a man who is alleged to have threatened to burn down an African American church.

Approximately 35 individuals have been charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer and related offenses. One of these cases was charged in Massachusetts; the rest of these individuals were charged in Oregon. The assaults have targeted local and federal law enforcement officers. In Portland, a man is alleged to have approached a U.S. Marshals Deputy from behind and struck the deputy in the upper back, neck, and shoulder with a wooden baseball bat; another man, allegedly assaulted a Deputy U.S. Marshal with an explosive device. In Boston, a man allegedly shot at least 11 times toward officers, including a deputized federal officer.

Approximately 30 individuals have been charged with offenses related to civil disorder. In several instances, these individuals leveraged social media platforms to incite destruction and assaults against law enforcement officers. In Cleveland, two Pennsylvania men are charged with driving to the city with the intent to participate in a riot and commit acts of violence. In their possession, authorities found a black backpack containing a hammer, two containers of Sterno Firestarter Instant Flame Gel, a can of spray paint, a glass bottle of liquor with a bar-style pour top, a Glock semi-automatic firearm and two magazines loaded with ammunition. In Knoxville, one individual allegedly instructed his social media followers to, “bring hammers bricks whatever you want.” The same defendant allegedly used a trashcan lid filled with an unknown liquid to strike a law enforcement officer in the head while the officer was seated in a police vehicle.

Charges have also been filed against individuals accused of committing burglary and carjacking. In Pittsburgh, two individuals allegedly attempted to burglarize a Dollar Bank. In Louisville, two individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit burglary involving controlled substances at a local Walgreens. Another Louisville individual was charged with carjacking; at the time of the carjacking, the individual was on a felony diversion as a result of a February 2020 conviction for charges that were initially filed as complicity to murder and complicity to robbery.

Several of these charges carry significant maximum prison sentences. For example, felony assault of a federal officer with a dangerous weapon is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Arson is punishable by up to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

The ATF and FBI continue to urge the public to report suspected arson, use of explosive devices, or violent, destructive acts associated with the recent unrest. Anyone with information can call 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477), email, or submit information anonymously via

In addition to those who commit fires, the FBI is looking for people who may have incited or promoted violence of any kind. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or submit images or videos at

An indictment and criminal complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Center For Justice & Democracy

Releases Trump’s Top 50

Anti-Civil Justice Scorecard

   (CJ&D) - 8/2/2020 - Stripping abused and neglected nursing home residents of their rights. Making it harder for defrauded students to hold fake for-profit colleges accountable. Preventing independent farmers from suing big agricultural companies. Attacking the legal rights of race, gender and LGBTQ discrimination survivors. Telling the U.S. Supreme Court that air crash victims should be blocked from suing plane manufacturers. Working to shield disease-ridden meatpacking plants from COVID-19 liability.
   These are just a few examples found in the Center for Justice & Democracy (CJ&D)’s new “Trump’s Top 50 Anti-Civil Justice Scorecard,” released on July 21, 2020.
   The report is a compilation of the top 50 laws, policies, reports, statements and court briefs from the current administration over the last four years that represent the most direct attacks on the rights of sick, injured and cheated Americans to use the courts. The report also contrasts the president’s hypocrisy, the group says, when it comes to legal rights, describing some of the thousands of lawsuits filed by Trump and his companies over the years, such as a recent Trump Organization suit against the estate of a dead man for unpaid maintenance fees after he died in a Trump Tower fire.
   The study comes as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to force Congress to pass destructive legislation to immunize negligent corporations that endanger workers and consumers.
   “Since President Trump so frequently runs to court to advocate for his own policy positions or personal advancement, blocking the courthouse doors may not seem like an obvious priority for this administration. But in less than four years, the Trump Administration has quietly destroyed many legal rights of everyday Americans and rigged the civil courts against them,” CJ&D’s Deputy Director for Law and Policy Emily Gottlieb stated in a press release.
   The Center for Justice & Democracy is a non-profit consumer rights organization focused on educating the public about the importance of thecivil justice system. The full report can be found here.
   “Over the last four years, any large special interest with money or clout has lined up before the Trump Administration, asking for some handout or loophole so they are never held responsible for what they do wrong,” CJ&D’s Executive Director Joanne Doroshow said. “We are seeing this again with Mitch McConnell’s disgraceful COVID-19 proposal. Everyday Americans, who do not have the same access to this Administration, are the ones who are hurt by such policies. Most have no idea their rights have been taken away until they have been injured, sickened, cheated, discriminated against or otherwise harmed. By then, it’s often too late.”   (Original press release dated July 21, 2020)