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The Largest Jails in the United States

The Los Angeles County Jail is the largest jail in the entire United States.

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world at 707 adults per every 100,000 residents. As per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2.3 million adults were incarcerated throughout the country in 2013. The numbers of prisoners in local jails have been increasing proportionally to the population. With 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 3,280 local jails, 80 Indian Country jails, and over 940 juvenile correctional facilities, it is often remarked that the US has more prisons than colleges. There are also military prisons and civil commitment centers in the country. Below are the largest jails in the US.

Largest Jails

Los Angeles County

With an inmate population of 19,836, almost the size of the nearby University of Southern California, and a budget worth over $700 million, Los Angeles County jail is the largest incarceration center in the US. It takes over 1,500 inmates to court every day. L.A. County jail has a fortress of seven facilities across over 4,000 square miles. The inmate population is majorly made up of nonviolent offenders with about 37% charged with violent acts such as rape, murder, and other aggravated assaults. More than half the inmates at any given time are yet to stand trial. The facility also offers rehabilitation and educational programs to inmates.

Rikers Island

Rikers Island is part of the New York City jail system. It is a 40-acre complex of 10 different facilities holding about 13,849 inmates. The island jail has a capacity of 15,000 inmates. The facilities at Riker Island include jail for sentenced male, a detention center for juveniles, and jail for sentenced and detained women. Other facilities house detained men. Some of the features on the island include tailor shop, bakery, and a power plant. There are also special facilities for inmates suffering from communicable diseases.

Harris County Jail

Harris County Jail is the main jail complex of Harris County, Huston. With a population of 10,000 inmates, the jail is filled to the brim. The county jail consists of three county jails and a state jail known as Joe Kegan State Jail. The three jails include the 1200 Jail which is located at 1200 Baker Street and has a capacity of 4,280 beds including the medical division, the 701 Jail which is one of the largest detention facilities in the US, and 1307 Jail which was originally built as a state jail.

Cook County Jail

Cook County jail is the largest single-site jail in the US, housing about 10,000 inmates. It employs about 3,800 law enforcers and over 7,000 civilians. Cook County Jail has struggled with overcrowding over the years. The diversion program for nonviolent inmates started in 1993 came as a relief to the problems of overcrowding. The jail has a history of execution by electrocution which was mainly carried out between 1928 and 1962 using an electric chair. About 67 inmates were electrocuted during that period.

Common Challenges to the Largest Jails in the US

Almost all the largest jails in the US are currently struggling with the problem of overcrowding. With the incarcerated population increasing by over 26% between 2000 and 2015, the jails have been forced to take up more inmates than their capacity. The slow execution of cases means that the more inmates are being brought into the jails than those being discharged. There have been cases of violent conducts among the inmates. Some inmates have also been accused of attacking law enforcement officials in some of the jails.

The Largest Jails in the United States

Rank´╗┐Jail NameLocationInmate Population (Source: Forbes)
1Los Angeles CountyLos Angeles, California19,836
2Rikers IslandNew York, New York13,849
3Harris County JailHouston, Texas10,000
4Cook County JailChicago, Illinois9,900
5Maricopa County JailPhoenix, Arizona9,265
6Curran-Fromhold Correctional FacilityPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania8,811
7Metro West Detention CenterMiami, Florida7,050
8Dallas County JailDallas, Texas6,385
9Orange County JailOrange County, California6,000
10Shelby County JailMemphis, Tenessee5,765

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