Most convicted of felonies do not get time in prison

Crime in America

In 2006 (latest available data) an estimated 69 percent of persons sentenced (after conviction) in state court of a felony were sentenced to a period of confinement; 41 percent went to state prison and 28 percent went to local jails.

State prisons generally hold those sentenced to a year or longer. Jails are used for those sentenced to a year or less

Those sentenced to state prisons received an average of four years and 11 months. The average sentence to jail was six months.

US Department of Justice data indicates that the average percentage served in prison ranges from 44 to 52 percent.

Thus the majority of people convicted of a felony in the United States do not go to prison and for those that do, most serve approximately half their sentence.

We’re unaware of data regarding time served in jails but most are quickly released and many are sentenced to time served while waiting for their trial.

We’re not sure how the United States became the world’s leader in incarceration if most convicted of felonies do not go to state prison, most get a sentence of less than five years and most serve half of that time.

Granted, all numbers increase for multiple felonies, violent felonies and extensive criminal histories but the data (second link) state that it’s rare for anyone convicted of a felony not to have prior contact with the criminal justice system.


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  1. Thank God for that.

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