Justice Dept. Numbers Show Prison Trends
By SOLOMON MOORE
The New York Times
Published: December 6, 2007
About one in every 31 adults in the United States was in prison, in jail or on supervised release at the end of last year, the Department of Justice reported yesterday.
An estimated 2.38 million people were incarcerated in state and federal facilities, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2005, while a record 5 million people were on parole or probation, an increase of 1.8 percent. Immigration detention facilities had the greatest growth rate last year. The number of people held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities grew 43 percent, to 14,482 from 10,104.
The data reflect deep racial disparities in the nation correctional institutions, with a record 905,600 African-American inmates in prisons and state and local jails. In several states, incarceration rates for blacks were more than 10 times the rate of whites. In Iowa, for example, blacks were imprisoned at 13.6 times the rate of whites, according to an analysis of the data by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group.
But the report concludes that nationally the percentage of black men in state and federal prison populations in 2006 fell to 38 percent, from 43 percent in 2000. The rates also declined for black women, while rates for white women increased.
Over all, the number of women in state and federal prisons, 112,498, was at a record high. The female jail and prison population has grown at double the rate for men since 1980; in 2006 it increased 4.5 percent, its fastest clip in five years.
The report suggests that state prison capacity has expanded at roughly the same rate as the prison population, with prisons operating at 98 percent to 114 percent of capacity, a slight improvement over 2005.
Still, many prison systems are accommodating record numbers of inmates by using facilities that were never meant to provide bed space. Arizona has for years held inmates in tent encampments on prison grounds. Hundreds of California prisoners sleep in three-tier bunk beds in gymnasiums or day rooms. Prisons throughout the nation have made meeting rooms for educational and treatment programs into cell space.
Private prisons have also been a growing option for crowded corrections departments. And local jails contracted with various government agencies to hold 77,987 more state and federal inmates last year.