In addition to the 1.6 million people incarcerated in federal and state prisons, there are 646,000 people locked up in more than 3,000 local jails throughout the U.S.
Seventy percent of these people in local jails are being held pretrial - meaning they have not been convicted of a crime and are legally presumed innocent.
One reason that the unconvicted population in the U.S. is so large is because our country largely has a system of money bail, in which the constitutional principle of innocent until proven guilty only really applies to the well off
With money bail, a defendant is required to pay a certain amount of money as a pledged guarantee he will attend future court hearings. If he is unable to come up with the money either personally or through a commercial bail bondsman, he can be incarcerated from his arrest until his case is resolved or dismissed in court.
While the jail population in the U.S. has grown substantially since the 1980's, the number of convicted people in jails has been flat for the last 15 years. Detention of the legally innocent has been consistently driving jail growth and the criminal justice reform discussion must include a discussion of local jails and the need for pretrial detention reform.
Click here for Prison Policy's report on this important issue.