Prisons

Thursday, Feb 17, 2011

United States Prison population total 2007: 2,293,157

World Prison Population List, Roy Walmsley, King's College London: International Centre for Prison Studies, 2008, http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/law/research/icps/downloads/wppl-8th_41.pdf.

Overall, the United States incarcerated 2,166,260 persons at yearend 2002... 1 in every 143 U.S. residents were incarcerated in State or Federal prison or a local jail. There were 5.9 million adults in the ‘correctional population’ by the end of 1998. This means that 2.9% of the U.S. adult population -- 1 in every 34 -- was incarcerated, on probation or on parole. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 1999, the nation spent $146,556,000,000 on the Federal, State and Local justice systems. Based on this information the cost per inmate year was: Corrections, judicial, legal and police costs: $78,154 per inmate per year. The average sentence in 2000 for federal convicts was almost 5 years; for non-violent crimes, 6 years.

Prisoners sentenced for drug offenses constituted the largest group of Federal inmates (55%) in 2001... In 2001, drug law violators comprised 20.4% of all adults serving time in State prisons. Over 80% of the increase in the federal prison population from 1985 to 1995 was due to drug convictions. The U.S. nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska.

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 686 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by the Cayman Islands (664), Russia (638), Belarus (554), Kazakhstan (522), Turkmenistan (489), Belize (459), Bahamas (447), Suriname (437) and Dominica (420). More than 8.75 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees (remand prisoners) or having been convicted and sentenced. About half of these are in the United States (1.96m), Russia (0.92m) or China.

Department of corrections data show that about a fourth of those initially imprisoned for nonviolent crimes are sentenced for a second time for committing a violent offense. Whatever else it reflects, this pattern highlights the possibility that prison serves to transmit violent habits and values rather than to reduce them. If one compares 1996 to 1984, the crime index is 13 points higher. This dramatic increase occurred during an era of mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out.”

States spent $32.5 billion on Corrections in 1997 alone. To compare, states only spent $22.2 billion on cash assistance to the poor. California state government expenditures on prisons increased 30% from 1987 to 1995, while spending on higher education decreased by 18%.

Common Sense for Drug Policy Presents The Facts: Prison, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), 2003, http://www.nacdl.org/sldocs.nsf/issues/druglawreform/$FILE/CSDPprison_facts.pdf.

Prior to 1972, the number of prisoners had grown at a steady rate that closely tracked growth rates in the general population. Between 1925 (the first year national prison statistics were officially collected) and 1972, the number of state prisoners increased from 85,239 to 174,379. Starting in 1973, however, the prison population and imprisonment rates began to rise precipitously. This change was fueled by stiffer sentencing and release laws and decisions by courts and parole boards, which sent more offenders to prison and kept them there for longer terms.

Prison Count 2010, Pew Center on the States, 2010, http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/PrisonCount2010.pdf.