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Record 1.18 Million People Are in U.S., State Prisons

Reuter
Monday, June 23, 1997

The U.S. prison population increased by nearly 56,000 inmates last year, reaching a record 1.18 million at the end of 1996 and posing new problems with overcrowding, the Justice Department reported yesterday.

The report by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said the 5 percent increase in the number of inmates last year was slightly less than the average annual growth rate earlier in the 1990s.

The report said that at the end of last year 105,544 inmates were in the federal prison system, 25 percent more than its capacity.

State prisons, which account for most of the nation's incarcerated criminals, operated at 16 to 24 percent over capacity last year.

The number of state and federal prisoners more than doubled between 1985, when there were 502,500 inmates, and 1996.

The report attributed the increase in the state prison population over the decade to more black drug offenders and more white violent offenders. Other factors included a decline in release rates, meaning that prisoners served more time of their total sentence, and a sharp increase in the number of people imprisoned for drug offenses.

The growth in the state prison population did not reflect longer sentences, the report said; the average maximum sentence imposed on prisoners declined to 66 months in 1995 from 78 months in 1985.

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