U.S. Prison, Jail Population Reaches 2.3 Million Inmates

WASHINGTON — The number of inmates housed in U.S. prisons and jails reached a record high of almost 2.3 million during 2007, according to the Department of Justice.

Data from the report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics backs up a survey of the prison population released earlier this year by Pew Charitable Trusts (see Correctional News May/June 2008).

In the 12-month period ending June 2007, the U.S. prison and jail population increased by almost 47,000 inmates, or 2.1 percent, to 2.29 million inmates, according to an annual survey by the BJS.

At mid-year 2007, an estimated 762 individuals per 100,000 residents were held in prison or jail — up from 684 individuals per 100,000 residents in December 2000.

During the first six months of 2007, the number of inmates held under state and federal jurisdiction increased by more than 24,900 inmates, or 1.6 percent, to nearly 1.6 million. More than 87 percent of prison inmates are under state jurisdiction.

The number of inmates under state jurisdiction increased by 1.4 percent in 2007 compared to 2 percent in 2006. The number of federal inmates increased by 3.1 percent in 2007 compared to 1.8 percent in 2006. 

The number of state and federal inmates housed in private detention facilities increased by more than 6,100 inmates, or 5.4 percent to more than 118,000 inmates during 2007. The number of state inmates in private facilities increased by 3.3 percent, while the number of federal inmates housed in private facilities increased by 12.1 percent.

U.S. jails processed approximately 13 million admissions during 2007 compared to 11.4 million in 1999. Local jails housed more than 780,000 inmates at mid-year 2007, which marked an increase of more than 14,000 inmates since mid-year 2006.

The rate of growth in the U.S. jail population declined from 2.5 percent in 2006 to 1.9 percent in 2007 — the smallest annual rate of growth in the jail population since 2001 and the second smallest since 1981, the survey states.

The total rated capacity of local jails increased to more than 813,000 beds at mid-year 2007. The increase from an estimated capacity of more than 677,000 beds in 2000 represents an average annual expansion rate of 2.6 percent, according to the BJS.

Although the inmate population and rated capacity of jails increased at an equal rate of 1.9 percent, in absolute terms, the increase in the number of beds — more than 15,500 beds — outstripped the increase in the number of inmates — more than 14,500, according to the BJS.

At mid-year 2007, U.S. jails were operating at 96 percent of total rated capacity, up from 90 percent in 2001.

Minorities continue to be incarcerated at disproportionate rates to whites, according to the report. Black males, who represent less than 10 percent of the total population, constituted more than 35 percent of all inmates held in prison or jail, according to the BJS.

Halfway through 2007, approximately 4 percent of all black males in the United States were incarcerated, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and less than 1 percent of white males in the general population.

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