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THE NATION'S PRISON POPULATION GREW ALMOST 9 PERCENT LAST YEAR
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 5 P.M. EDT BJS
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9, 1995 202/307-0784
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The nation's state and federal prisons had to find room for 83,294 more inmates last year--the second largest annual increase in history and just 1,470 fewer than the 84,764 increase recorded in 1989. The total number of men and women in prison last December 31 was 1,053,738--a new record. Overall, almost 1.5 million people were incarcerated in the United States in 1994. State and federal prisons, which primarily hold convicted felons serving longer sentences, contained about two-thirds of the total. Locally operated jails, which primarily hold people awaiting trial or serving sentences of a year or less, held the other third.
At the end of 1994 state prisons held 958,704 men and women and federal prisons held 95,034 inmates. California (125,605) and Texas (118,195) together held more than one in every five inmates in the nation. Seventeen states, each holding fewer than 5,000 inmates, accounted for 4 percent of all prisoners.
Prison populations increased by at least 10 percent in 16 states last year. Texas reported the largest growth (28 percent), followed by Georgia (20 percent). Alaska and
Connecticut reported fewer prisoners who had been sentenced to more than a year.
The average sentence length and time served for state prisoners has remained stable in recent years. Between 1985 and 1992, the years for which comparable data are available, half of the state prisoners served at least 48 months.
In the federal system, however, the "truth in sentencing" provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 have contributed to increasing the median time served in prison from 15 months in 1986 to 24 months in 1992.
The incarceration rate for prisoners sentenced to more than a year reached a record 387 per 100,000 U.S. residents last December 31. States with the highest incarceration rates were Texas (636 inmates per 100,000 residents), Louisiana (530) and Oklahoma (508). North Dakota (78) had the lowest, followed by Minnesota (100) and West Virginia (106).
Since 1980 per capita incarceration rates rose the most in the South (from 188 to 451) and West (from 105 to 333). The rate in the Northeast rose from 87 to 285, and the rate in the Midwest from 109 to 297.
In absolute numbers, violent offenders were the greatest contributors to state prison inmate growth. Between 1980 and 1993, the number of violent offenders grew by an estimated 221,300, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimated using 1993 data.
More than a quarter of the state and federal inmates were in prison for drug offenses (234,600 prisoners) in 1993. Prisoners serving a drug sentence increased from 8 percent of the state and federal prison population in 1980 to 26 percent in 1993. In federal prisons, inmates sentenced for drug law violations were the single largest group--60 percent in 1993, up from 25 percent in 1980.
At the end of the year, states reported they were operating between 17 percent and 29 percent over capacity, while the federal system was operating at 25 percent over capacity.
Because of prison construction and the creation of new prison beds, the ratio of the inmate population to the capacity of state prisons has remained almost the same since 1990.
The average growth in the number of state and federal prisoners sentenced to at least a year's incarceration was equal to the need for 1,542 more beds per week in 1994.
During 1994 almost 5 percent of all state prisoners--48,949 inmates in 21 jurisdictions--were held in local jails or other facilities because of prison crowding.
The number of female inmates grew 10.6 percent last year, compared to an 8.5 percent increase among male inmates. On December 31, 1994, there were 64,403 women in state and federal prisons--6.1 percent of all prisoners. The rate of incarceration for inmates serving a sentence of more than a year is 746 males per 100,000 U.S. male residents, vs. 45 females per 100,000 female population.
Between 1980 and 1993, the number of white and black female inmates grew at a faster pace than the number of male inmates in either racial group. During this period the number of white males grew 163 percent, the number of black males grew 217 percent, the number of white females 327 percent, and the number of black females 343 percent. An estimated 1,471 blacks per 100,000 black residents and 207 whites per 100,000 white residents were incarcerated in the nation's prisons on December 31, 1993.
The report, "Prisoners in 1994" (NCJ-151654), was written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and Darrell K. Gilliard. Single copies may be obtained from the BJS Clearinghouse, Box 179, Annapolis Junction, Maryland 20701-0179. The telephone number is 1-800/732-3277. Fax orders to 410/792-4358.
Data from tables and graphs used in many BJS reports can be obtained in spreadsheet files on 5.25 and 3.5 inch diskettes by calling 202/616-3283.
After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301-983-9354
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