The rate of adult Americans in prison or jail or on probation or parole fell to its lowest point since 2000, according to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
At the end of 2011, about 6.98 million people in the U.S. - about 2.9% of the total adult population -- were under some form of adult correctional supervision. According to the BJS report, Correctional Populations in the United States, 2011, this number represented about one in 34 adults, the lowest rate of adults under correctional supervision observed since 2000.
Correctional supervision includes actual incarceration in prisons or jails, as well as being on probation or parole among the general population.
Probation is a court-ordered period of time during which a convicted offender is allowed to remain in the community, but must remain under correctional supervision. Probation is typically ordered as an alternative to incarceration. Parole is a period during which an offender, after being released from prison, must remain under correctional supervision.
The total number of adults under correctional supervision declined for the third straight year in 2011, dropping by 1.4% or 98,900 offenders, according to the report.
BJS reports that at the end of 2011, about 2,239,800 adults - one in 107 U.S. adults -- were incarcerated in state or federal prisons or local jails and about 4,814,200 offenders - one in 50 -- were on probation or parole.
In May 2012, the BJS also reported that the inmate population of U.S. local jails had dropped for the third straight year, reaching its lowest level since 2002.
The number of persons on probation fell by 2%, or 81,000 offenders during 2011, falling below four million for the first time since 2002. On the other hand, the number of people on parole increased by 1.6% or 13,300 offenders.
The percentage of parolees who re-offended and were returned to jail or prison fell for the fifth consecutive year during 2011, declining from 15% during 2006 to 12% in 2011.
In June 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was working on a computer program to help police, as well as probation officers predict which convicted felons released on probation are most likely to commit another crime.