Prison and Jail Inmate Population Growth Slows

WASHINGTON — The corrections population in the United States increased by less than 1 percent during 2008, the smallest annual increase in almost a decade, according to the most recent federal statistics.
The number of individuals under correctional supervision — individuals in prison or jail or on probation or parole — increased by 33,900 offenders to 7.3 million during 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The 0.5 percent increase in the corrections population during 2008 is the smallest annual increase since 2000 and equates to about a third of the average annual rate of growth since 2000 (1.6 percent), according to the BJS report.
From 2000 to 2008, the prison population recorded an average annual increase of 1.8 percent annually, which is less than a third of the 6.5 percent average annual growth rate witnessed during the 1990s.
Slower prison population growth since 2000 was driven by a decrease in the number of sentenced black inmates (down about 18,400).
Approximately 30 percent of the total corrections population (about 2.3 million offenders) was in the custody in state of federal prison or local jail. The remaining 70 percent of the total corrections population (about 5.1 million offenders) was under some form of supervision in the community, such as on probation or parole.
More than 1.6 million inmates were under state or federal jurisdiction at the end of 2008 as growth in the prison population slowed to 0.8 percent for the preceding 12 months. Prison population growth slowed as the number admitted into prison decreased 0.5 percent, while the number released from prison increased 2 percent.
Prison populations declined in 20 states during 2008, according to the BJS. New York recorded the largest decrease in prison population with a decline of almost 2,300 inmates, followed by Georgia, down more than 1,500 inmates; and Michigan, down almost 1,500 inmates.
The number of offenders under supervision in the community increased by 0.9 percent during 2008 as the parole population increased by more than 6,900 to more than 828,000 parolees. The number of probationers increased more than 36,400 to more than 4.27 million probationers, which represents almost 85 percent of the total community supervision population.
The nearly 1 percent increase in probation population marks a 12-month increase in a trend that had slowed significantly in recent years. Growth in the probation population declined from an average annual growth rate of 2.5 percent between 2000 and 2003 to an annual average growth of 0.7 percent between 2003 and 2008, according to the BJS.

Between 2006 and 2008, probation exits increased at a greater average annual rate (2.4 percent) than probation entries (1.5 percent), while parole exits grew at a faster rate (5.6 percent) than parole entries (2.1 percent) in 2008, according to the BJS.