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Department of Justice Reports Third Year of Prison Population Declines

By Matt Clarke

The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice released a statistical report in July 2013 showing the third straight year of prisoner population declines in the United States.

From year-end 2011 through year-end 2012, the total count of state and federal jurisdiction prisoners declined by 27,770 to 1,571,013. This reflected a fall in the male rate of incarceration from 932 per 100,000 U.S. residents to 910 and a decline in the female incarceration rate from 65 to 63 per 100,000. The total imprisonment rate decreased by 2.4% from 492 per 100,000 U.S. residents at year-end 2011 to 480 per 100,000 on December 31, 2012. The total number of female prisoners in the U.S. at year-end 2012 was 108,866, a decrease of 2.3% from year-end 2011 and the lowest level since 2005.

The number of prisoners under state jurisdiction peaked             at 1,407,369 in 2009. It declined by 1.5% in 2011 and 2.1% (29,223 prisoners) in 2012. By contrast, the federal jurisdiction prisoner population grew by 0.7% (1,453 prisoners) in 2012, continuing a pattern of growth that begins in 1998.

California had the greatest decline in prisoner population. Due to the state's Public Safety Realignment policy, which took effect in late 2011, California's overall state prisoner population decreased by 15,035 (-10.1%), accounting for 51% of the overall decline in state prisoner populations. Texas reported the second largest decline in 2012, reducing its prisoner population by 5,852 (-3.4%), followed by North Carolina's reduction of 2,304 (-5.8%). Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York and Virginia all reduced their prisoner populations by over 1,000 prisoners.

At 1,538 (3.9%), Louisiana had the greatest state prisoner population increase. The prisoner populations of Kentucky, Michigan and Mississippi all increased by over 500 prisoners in 2012.

At 166,372, Texas continued to have the most prisoners under state jurisdiction at year-end 2012, while California came in second at 134,534 and Florida was third at 101,930. There were 217,815 prisoners under federal jurisdiction at that time.

The number of prisoners who had been sentenced at year-end 2012 varied by jurisdiction with federal jurisdiction having 196,574, Texas coming in second at 157,900, California third with 134,211 and Florida fourth at 101,930.


Source, "Prisoners in 2012 - Advanced Counts," Report No. NCJ 242467, July 2013, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, available online at

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