SPOTLIGHT – Report: U.S. Inmate Population on the Rise

Several key indicators reveal that inmate populations in the united states are continuing to expand.

Several new reports, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics midyear survey of the U.S. inmate population for 2005 — the latest year comprehensive inmate population statistics are available — shows a jump in the number of U.S. inmates.

Midyear Report

At midyear 2005 there were 2,186,230 incarcerated persons in U.S. facilities, according to a report released in May by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. Two-thirds of the population — 1,438,701 inmates, or 488 per 100,000 inmates — was held in state and federal prisons, while the remaining one-third of the population — 747,529 inmates, or 252 inmates per 100,000 residents — was housed in local jails, a 4.7 percent increase over the midyear tally 2004.

The increase in jail inmates at midyear 2005 marks the largest population boost since the 5.4 percent growth in 2002. The average annual growth rate for jails from midyear 1995 to midyear 2005 is 3.9 percent. The largest increase during that time was in 1997, when 48,587 new inmates created a 9.4 percent change over the previous year.

The jail population increase put rated jail capacity nationwide at 95 percent. For the 12-month period ending June 30, 2004, there were 33,398 beds added to U.S. jails to bring the nation’s total rated capacity to an estimated 789,001 beds. During that same period, more inmates than beds were added to the system.

California led the nation’s jail population with 82,138 inmates. Texas, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania followed.

The increase in the prison system was less dramatic, with an increase of 15,858 new state prisoners and 6,584 new federal prisoners. Federal prisons experienced a greater population growth with a 3.9 percent growth rate. The state prison inmate population jumped 1.3 percent.

Overcrowding problems continued to plague both state and federal prisons. Federal prisons were operating at 40 percent over capacity and state prison populations ranged from 1 percent below capacity to 15 percent over capacity.

Ten state prison systems grew by more than 5 percent, led by Montana (7.9 percent), South Dakota (7.8 percent) and Minnesota (6.7 percent)

The number of inmates held in private facilities increased by 2.7 percent to 101,228 inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (26,544), Texas (15,414), Oklahoma (5,812) and Florida (5,423) reported the largest number of inmates in private facilities at midyear 2004.

Women Inmates

With an average annual growth rate of 4.7 percent since 1995, the women inmate population continues to outpace the men’s population growth, according to the BJS. At midyear 2005, there were 106,174 women inmates, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2004’s midyear tally of 102,691.

A recent report by the Institute on Women and Criminal Justice of the Women’s Prison Association further reveals evidence of the population shift. The number of women prisoners serving sentences for more than a year increased 757 percent from 1977 to 2004, according to the report.

A World Leader

The United States continues to lead the world’s inmate population with an incarceration rate of more than 700 per every 100,000 residents, according to a study conducted by King’s College in London.

More than 9 million people are imprisoned in correctional facilities worldwide. The United States leads with 2.09 million inmates, followed by China, with 1.55 million inmates, and Russia, with 760,000 inmates.

Per capita, the U. S. inmate population rate is followed by Belarus (in Eastern Europe), Bermuda, Russia, and Palau, located southeast of the Philippines.

Nearly three-fifths of the surveyed countries have rates lower than 150 inmates per 100,000 residents. The study found that in Asia, the south central countries have a rate of 55 inmates per 100,000 residents, whereas the central, ex-Soviet countries have a rate of 386 inmates per 100,000 residents.

The study, published by the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College, collected the prison population figures of 211 independent countries and dependent territories from national prison administrations and ministries. The dates of the collected figures range from mid-2002 to February 2005.

The study is not precise, since some of the figures are based on estimates of the national population and there are no figures available for eleven countries, but it is intended to provide information for academic criminologists and non-governmental agencies that are doing general comparative analyses.

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