The Washington Times
Monday, January 19, 1998

US. Prisoner Population Rose Almost 6% Last Year

Report Shows a Slight Slowing in Trend

The nation's prison and jail population increased nearly 6 percent last year, from an estimated 1.6 million to more than 1.7 million by June 30, the Justice Department said yesterday.

That makes one in every 155 U.S. residents incarcerated as of mid-1997, according to a new report by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

However, the increase was slightly smaller than those recorded in earlier years. From 1990 to 1997, the number increased an average of 6.5 percent annually. The number of prisoners behind bars in state and federal institutions grew in 1997 by 55,198, or 4.7 percent. That was also less than the annual average increase, which has stood at 7.7 percent since 1990.

Despite smaller-than usual increases at the state and federal level, the figures for prisoners in local jails rose by more than the average.

From July 1 to June 30, the number of inmates in local jails grew by 48,587, or 9.4 percent, "considerably more than the 4.9 percent average annual growth since 1980," the bureau said.

During the last 25 years, the federal and state inmate population has increased sixfold from 200,000 in 1972, according to The Sentencing Project, a private group.

Two-thirds of all inmates, more than 1.1 million were in federal and state prisons, and the rest, 567,079 prisoners, were in local facilities.

The only states to report declines were Massachusetts, down 0.7 per cent; Virginia, down 0.5 percent aid the District of Columbia, down 0.2 percent.

Data for the Bureau of Justice Statistics report were drawn from the 1997 National Prisoner Statistics program and the 1997 Annual Survey of Jails.

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