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2000 Census of Prisons, Prison Populations Published

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in August 2003, released the findings of its Year 2000 Census of State and Federal Prisons. The report found that from the previous census in 1995 to 2000 the number of Federal, State, and privately-operated prisons increased from 1,464 facilities to 1,668 facilities. The total rated capacity of these facilities rose from 975,719 to 1,278,471 persons, while the actual incarcerated population rose from 1,023,572 to 1,305,253 prisoners. Excluded from the census were jails and other local or regional detention facilities, private prisons not holding primarily State or Federal prisoners, prison hospital wards not operated by prison authorities, and prisons or other detention facilities operated by the military, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Due to the delay in publishing the results, all the actual statistics in the report are outdated as the prison population has significantly increased, and continues to increase exponentially. However, the report is still useful as a means of measuring change as it occurs - and trends.

Of the prisons surveyed, private facilities showed the largest percent increase in number of operating prisons (up 140%) and in number of prisoners incarcerated (up 459%). By contrast, the Federal government added seven prisons (up 9%) and the States forty-three (up 3%). The Federal prison population grew to 110,974 (up 37%), while the States' prison population grew to 1,101,202 persons (up 19%). Private prisons in 2000 held 7% of all prisoners in the United States.
Overcrowding continues to be a problem in Federal and State prisons. In 1995, Federal prisons operated at 125% of rated capacity. By 2000, that rate rose to 134% of capacity. In State prisons, overcrowding dropped from 104% to 101% of rated capacity between 1995 and 2000. Interestingly, in State and Federal prisons, assaults by prisoners on staff showed moderate decreases
or only slight increases, while prisoner-on staff assaults in private prisons more than doubled. Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults rose in all prisons, both in total number and in rate of assaults in the prisoner population. Again, the greatest increases were found in private prisons. In 1995, however, 82 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults resulted in death, but in 2000, only 51 prisoners died from other prisoners' assaults.

In the year preceding the 2000 census, 3,175 prisoners died. The rate of death was 2.4 deaths per 1,000 prisoners, down from 3.2 per 1,000 in 1995. Natural causes and illness (excluding AIDS) were the principal causes of death. AIDS was the second leading cause of prisoner death. Overall, suicide, homicides, and "other causes" (executions, accidents, and drug overdoses) accounted for the rest of the deaths.

In 2000, 21 % of State and private prisons (but no Federal prisons) were under a court order or consent decree. This is down from 31 % of State and private prisons in 1995. Among State prisons in 2000, the most frequent court order or consent decree was to limit population (98 prisons), followed by visiting, mail, or telephone policies (97), accommodation of the disabled (91), freedom of religious expression (88), and mental health treatment (86). Among the 33 private prisons under court order or consent decree, 26 were ordered to limit population, 17 were under orders related to specific conditions (most commonly grievance policies), and 7 were "cited for the totality of conditions."

The 20 page report contains an extensive analysis of the prison census, including 27 tables and a copy of the census form used. The report is titled Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2000 and is report number NCJRS 198272. One copy of the report is free by writing NCJRS, Post Office Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20849-6000, or by down loading the report from the BJS Web site at

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