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Prison Population Continues to Grow

Continuing a trend first noted in 2000, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, reported that the overall growth rate of the United States' prison population was quite small. In some states, prison populations actually declined. PLN has previously reported on prison population growth [PLN, July `02, page 14]. The bulletin is titled "Prisoners in 2001."

The BJS released its 2001 bulletin on Federal and State prisoners in July 2002. BJS reported that at year end 2001, the United States incarcerated 1,406,031 adults in Federal and State prisons. When prisoners in territorial prisons, Immigration and Naturalization Service facilities, military facilities, local jails, jails in Indian country, and juvenile facilities were counted, the number of prisoners nationwide was 2,100,146 persons at year end 2001.

The States added only 3,193 persons to their prison populations in 2001, a growth rate of about 0.3%. Indeed, overall State prisoners' numbers declined from June 30, 2001, through December 31, 2001. The Federal prison population grew by 11,577 persons in 2001, about 8.0%. Although the Federal prison population did not decline in the last half of 2001, population growth did slow dramatically. Overall, the nation's prison population grew only 1.1%, less than the average annual rate of 3.8% since yearend 1995. Indeed, BJS stated that "the prison population rose at the lowest rate since 1972 and had the smallest absolute increase since 1979."

The U.S. incarceration rate now stands at 470 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents. By gender, approximately 1 of every 12 men and 1 of every 1,724 women were in a Federal or State prison at yearend 2001. By race and age, 10% of all Black males age 25-29 were imprisoned in 2001, compared to 2.9% of Hispanic males and 1.2% of White males in the same age group. In every age group; Black males and females had the highest incarceration rates, followed by Hispanic and White men and women.

In 2001, the District of Columbia and ten states saw prison populations actually decline. The states losing prisoners were New Jersey, Utah, New York, Texas, California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Ohio, and Massachusetts. In absolute numbers, Texas experienced the biggest decline, losing 4,649 prisoners, followed by California, which lost 3,557 prisoners.

In absolute numbers, the Federal system grew more than any other prison system, gaining 11,577 prisoners. Georgia and Tennessee saw the next largest gains - 1,705 and 1,505 prisoners respectively. In percentage terms, West Virginia experienced the most growth, followed by Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Hawaii.

The report analyzed State and Federal prisoners in a variety of ways. Among these are race, gender, age, and type of crime.

One copy of the report is free by writing Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20531. Ask for report number NCJ195189. The report may also be downloaded from

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