Local jails have contact with as many people in three weeks as state and federal prisons do in a year. Nine million men and women are jailed each year, many of them "frequent users" who cycle in and out of jail. Many people entering jails face major obstacles: 68 percent have drug or alcohol problems, 60 percent do not have a high school diploma or GED, 16 percent have a serious mental illness, and 14 percent were homeless at some point during the year before their incarceration. Overcrowding, limited program resources, rapid population turnover (80 percent of jail inmates are held less than a month), and the diversity of the jail population (60 percent of jail inmates are awaiting trial or sentencing) make it difficult for jails to effectively prepare individuals for successful reintegration into the community after release.
The transition from jail to the community presents a unique opportunity for intervention. Short stays in jail facilities close to home mean that inmates are less removed from family, friends, treatment providers, employers, and other support. Jails cannot be solely responsible for the transition to the community; partnerships must be forged between jails and the local community.
For more information about the challenges and opportunities of the jail-to-community transition, see Life after Lockup: Improving Reentry from Jail to the Community.
Note: All statistics on this page come from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Specific citations are available in Life after Lockup.