By Robert E. Pierre
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2008; DZ04
The District has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation, according to a report that says jails nationwide are bursting at the seams even though crime is nearly as low as it has been in 30 years.
The report by the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington-based group that focuses on what it considers an over-reliance on incarceration, said that people are more likely than ever to stay in city and county jails before trial. One reason is they can't afford bail. A significant portion of those in jail are homeless, addicted to drugs or mentally ill -- not hardened criminals, the report said.
Incarceration comes at a high cost. In 2004, local governments spent $19 billion to fund jails, compared with $8.7 billion on libraries and $28 billion on higher education, the report said.
In the District, 3,214 inmates are under city control at the D.C. jail and contract facilities. That is 553 people per 100,000 residents. Only Philadelphia and two Tennessee counties, Davidson and Shelby, lock up residents at a higher rate.