If you’ve ever wondered about this question, then this 2010 study is for you!
About 25% of the total US adult black population has a felony, while 6.5% of adult non-blacks have a felony conviction. About 8.6% of the adult population has a felony conviction.
Florida is a particularly egregious police state. 35% of adult blacks in Florida have felony conviction, 14% of the total adult population in Florida have a felony conviction.
About 20 million people have a felony conviction in Amerika. That works out to about 1 in 12 adult Americans.
Note, those numbers are for 2010. Looking at the growth rate trajectory, we are probably up to around 24 million people today in 2014 with a felony conviction. This means we are probably pushing 10% of the adult population today.
One other thing to consider is that a large number of would-be felonies are plead down to misdemeanors, so the actual total number of people who were caught committing a felonious act is undoubtedly much higher than these numbers portray.
If no criminals took a plea deal, and all felonies were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, the entire US criminal justice system would implode within a year. Over 95% of federal cases never go to trial.
Read the book Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvey Silverglate. After you’re done reading that, watch some people getting arrested for feeding the homeless and for slow dancing in public. I got plenty more where those came from.
For a comparison, here’s how cops in Norway behave. If those were American cops, that drunk would have been slapped with a felony resisting and public intoxication charge and might not even be alive today from the beating they would have given him. Each one of those felonies represents thousands of dollars being taken from your pocket.
The paper notes:
This paper has described growth in the size and social distribution of the American “criminal class.” If we use current or former imprisonment as the criterion for class membership, we estimate its size at approximately 7.7 million people at year-end 2010. By our estimates, about 3.4 percent of the adult voting age population have once served or are currently serving time in a state or federal prison. If we adopt a more inclusive definition of the criminal class, including all convicted of a felony regardless of imprisonment, these numbers increase to 19.8 million persons, representing 8.6 percent of the adult population and approximately one third of the African American adult male population. Any group of this size will have profound and far-reaching social, political, and demographic consequences. Because the felon population is drawn so heavily from the most disadvantaged groups in American society, however, understanding this group’s historical growth and current size is vitally important for understanding and addressing U.S. social inequalities.