2,000,000 behind bars in the US

Issue 

2,000,000 behind bars in the US

Washington, DC — The Washington DC-based Justice Policy Institute (JPI) reported at the beginning of this month that on February 15, the United States jail population would top 2 million for the first time.

Using the most up to date Justice Department statistics and trends, the institute estimated that the US now has the world's largest incarcerated population and the highest incarceration rate. The US has a quarter of the world's prison population, despite having less than 5% of the world's population.

The JPI's report, "The Punishing Decade: Prison and Jail Estimates at the Millennium", shows that the imprisoned population grew at a faster rate during the 1990s than during any decade in recorded history. The US entered the 1990s with 1,145,300 inmates in its jails and prisons. On December 31, there were an estimated 1,983,084 adults behind bars, and by the end of the year there will be 2,073,969.

The prison population growth during the 1990s exceeded the 1980s by 61%, and is nearly 30 times the average growth of any decade prior to the 1970s.

The institute estimated that US$39 billion was spent to operate the US jails by the end of 1999, a figure which will grow to $41 billion by the end of 2000. It also reported that, in 1995, states around the country spent more on building prisons than building universities for the first time, and that two-thirds of those incarcerated (approximately 1.2 million people) are imprisoned for non-violent offences.

"Halfway through black history month, ... one out of three young African-American males are under some form of criminal justice control", said Jason Ziedenberg, a JPI policy analyst.

The JPI's study is posted at <http://www.cjcj.org/punishingdecade>.