U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Aging of the State Prison Population, 1993-2013

NCJ Number
E. Ann Carson, Ph.D., Bureau of Justice Statistics; William J. Sabol, Ph.D., Bureau of Justice Statistics
Date Published
May 2016

Discusses factors that have contributed to the growing number of older offenders in state prison, and examines changes in the sex, race, current offense, and sentencing characteristics of these offenders over time. It also describes how more prison admissions and longer lengths of stay contribute to the aging of the prison population and result in the growing numbers of offenders who are "aging in" to the older age cohorts. Data are from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Corrections Reporting Program, National Prisoner Statistics program, and Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities (1991 and 2004) and from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program.

  • The number of prisoners age 55 or older sentenced to more than 1 year in state prison increased 400% between 1993 and 2013, from 26,300 (3% of the total state prison population) in 1993 to 131,500 (10% of the total population) in 2013.
  • The imprisonment rate for prisoners age 55 or older sentenced to more than 1 year in state prison increased from 49 per 100,000 U.S. residents of the same age in 1993 to 154 per 100,000 in 2013.
  • Between 1993 and 2013, more than 65% of prisoners age 55 or older were serving time in state prison for violent offenses, compared to a maximum of 58% for other age groups sentenced for violent offenses.
  • At yearend 1993, 2003, and 2013, at least 27% of state prisoners age 55 or older were sentenced for sexual assault, including rape.
  • More than four times as many prisoners age 55 or older were admitted to state prisons in 2013 (25,700) than in 1993 (6,300).

Date Published: May 19, 2016