U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Lifetime Likelihood of Going to State or Federal Prison

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 1997
Describes characteristics of persons admitted to prison for the first time, compares lifetime and one-day prevalence rates, considers changes in admission rates since 1991, and discusses the estimation techniques.

This Special Report presents lifetime chances of going to State or Federal prison by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin. Using standard demographic lifetable techniques, and assuming that recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 of every 20 persons (5%) can be expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime. The lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for men (9%) than for women (1%) and higher for blacks (16%) and Hispanics (9%) than for whites (2%). At current levels of incarceration newborn black males in this country have a greater than a 1 in 4 chance of going to prison during their lifetimes, while Hispanic males have a 1 in 6 chance, and white males have a 1 in 23 chance of serving time.

The data in this report have been updated by Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001 08/03 NCJ 197976.

Date Published: March 6, 1997