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Prison Population Growth Slows Dramatically in 2000

In the year 2000, America's prison population slowed its growth dramatically, showing the lowest growth rate seen in 28 years. The state prison population experienced its first measured decline in nearly three decades. These data highlighted an August 2001 report published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

At the end of the year 2000, the United States incarcerated 2,071,686 persons. Excluding prisoners in local jails, federal and state prisons held 1,312,354 prisoners. Local jails accounted for another 621,149 prisoners. Territorial prisons, Immigration and Naturalization detention facilities, military prisons, Indian country jails, and juvenile facilities accounted for the rest of the prisoners. The 2000 incarceration rate was 478 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents, up from 292 per 100,000 in 1990. One of every 109 men and one of every 1,695 women in the U.S. are incarcerated. If jails are also considered, the incarceration rate rises to 699 prisoners per 100,000 residents, or about 1 of every 143 U.S. residents imprisoned.

From 1990 to 2000, the State and Federal prison populations grew at an annual average rate of 6.0%. From a peak growth rate of 8.7% in 1994, however, the annual prison population growth rate declined to 3.4% in 1999, and to 1.3% in 2000. This was the lowest annual growth rate in prison population since 1972. Moreover, the BJS report disclosed that State prison populations actually shrank 0.5% from July to December 2000, the first measured decline since 1972.

The Federal prison population growth rate of 7.5% in 2000 greatly outpaced the State (0.7%) and overall (1.3%) prison population growth rates. In addition, among States, there were clear variations in prison population changes. Thirteen States experienced decreases in prison populations, led by Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. In Idaho, North Dakota, Mississippi, Vermont, and Iowa, State prison populations increased at least 10% in 2000.

The report measured the largest and smallest prison systems by a variety of standards. The California prison system was the largest in 2000 in terms of total prisoners (163,001), while Louisiana was the largest in terms of sentenced prisoners per 100,000 State residents (801). Idaho led all States in 1-year growth from 1999-2000 and in annual growth from 1990-2000 (10.9%). Collectively, California, Texas, and the Federal prison systems held 1 of every 3 prisoners incarcerated in 2000. The top 10 jurisdictions in terms of prison population held 60% of the total U.S. prison population.

Women prisoners are increasing in number. Female prisoner numbers have doubled since 1990. More women prisoners are incarcerated for drug or property offenses than for any other type of crime.

Racial disparity is also plain in the report. In all age groups, Blacks are incarcerated at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group, among both males and females, for all types of crime. In 2000, among all male prisoners in State and Federal prisons, Blacks represented 46.2% of prisoners, Whites 35.7%, Hispanics 16.4%, and other groups 1.7%. Nearly 1 out of every 10 Black males age 25-29 were in prison in 2000, compared to almost 3% of Hispanic males and about 1% of White males in the same age group.

A single copy of the report is free by writing U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC 20531. The report is also downloadable from the Internet at The report is titled "Prisoners in 2000," and is report number NCJ188207, published August 2001.

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