Imprisonment Facts from Department of Justice

U.S. Department of Justice

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 5 P.M. EST                            BJS WEDNESDAY,
JUNE 1, 1994                             202-307-0784


         WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The number of state and federal prisoners at the
end of last year reached a new record number--948,881 inmates, an almost
two-fold increase since 1980, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS) announced today.  In 1980 the nation's prisons held 329,821
men and women. The average annual increase since then has been 8.5 percent.

         Last year's growth--65,225 inmates, or 7.4 percent--was equal to a
weekly average gain of about 1,250 prisoners.  As of last December 31, state
prisons were estimated to be operating between 18 percent and 29 percent above
capacity, while the federal system was estimated to be operating at 36 percent
over capacity.

         The federal system at the end of last year had 89,586 prisoners, which
was almost 12 percent more than at the end of 1992.  Among the states,
California had the largest number of inmates (119,951), followed by Texas
(71,103) and New York (64,569).  Texas also had 29,546 inmates backed up in
local jails awaiting transfer to state prisons.

         The incarceration rate for prisoners sentenced to more than a year was
351 per 100,000 U.S. residents--also a new record. The states with the highest
incarceration rates were Texas (553, including the state prisoners in jails),
Oklahoma (506) and Louisiana (499) per 100,000 residents of their respective

         Between 1988 and 1993, the number of sentenced prisoners grew 51
percent, an increase of more than 306,000 prisoners.  All regions of the
country have shown approximately equal growth rates during the 5-year period.

         Almost half of the growth since 1980 was linked to increases in the
number of drug offenders entering prison.  In 1992, the latest year for which
the data are available, the number of new prison commitments for drug offenses
reached an estimated 102,000, or 30 percent of the new commitments for that
year.  In 1980, 8,900 (7 percent) of the new commitments were for drug
offenses.  During this period, the number of adult arrests for drug law
violations more than doubled (from 471,200 to 980,700), and the likelihood of
going to prison increased five-fold, from 19 admissions per 1,000 adult
arrests to 104.

         BJS noted that during the 1980-1992 period, in addition to drug
offenders, more people were arrested for sexual assault, robbery, and
aggravated assault.  An increasingly higher percentage of these defendants, as
well as burglary defendants, were sent to prison.  This combination of more
arrests and higher imprisonment rates resulted in almost 50,000 more people
entering prison in 1992 for these offenses.

         Inmate growth was also linked to increases in the number of parole and
probation violators returned to prison.  In 1980, 82 percent of state
prisoners were admitted to prison directly after sentencing by a court and 17
percent were admitted for parole violations.  By 1992 the percentage of
admissions for parole violations had increased to 30.

         The rise in the prison population was greatest among black males.
Between 1980 and 1992, the black male prison population increased by 186
percent (261,100 inmates), compared to 143 percent (228,500) for white males.
During the same years, the number of white females increased 275 percent
(16,200), and the number of black females grew by a nearly identical 278
percent (17,500).

         In 1992 the incarceration rate of black males was 2,678 per 100,000
black residents.  The rate of white males was 372 per 100,000.  The
incarceration rate among black females was 143 per 100,000, compared to 20 per
100,000 for white females.

         As of the end of last year there were 55,365 female state and federal
prisoners--5.8 percent of the total inmate population.  During the year Texas
had the largest increase among the states (61 percent), going from 2,487 to

         Single copies of the BJS bulletin, "Prisoners in 1993" (NCJ-147036) as
well as other BJS statistical reports may be obtained from the BJS
Clearinghouse, Box 179, Annapolis Junction, Maryland 20701-0179.  The
telephone number is 1-800-732-3277. Fax orders to 410-792-4358.

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After hours contact: Stu Smith 301-983-9354