U.S. flag

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

Prisoners in 1996


AT 4:30 P.M., EDT  BJS
SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 1997       202/633-3047


     WASHINGTON -- The nation's adult prison
population grew by 55,876 inmates last year, bringing
the total to a new record of 1,182,169 federal and
state prisoners as of last December 31, the Justice
Department reported today.  Overall, the number of
inmates increased by 5 percent, which was less than
the average annual growth rate of 7.3 percent recorded
since 1990.  The 1996 increase was the equivalent of
adding more than 1,075 more inmates each week.  

     The report, by the  Department's Bureau of
Justice Statistics (BJS), said the number of federal
and state prisoners more than doubled between 1985 and
1996--growing from 502,507 to 1,182,169.

     The number of females prisoners grew 9.1 percent
during the year, almost double the 4.7 percent
increase in male inmates.  At the end of the year, 6.3
percent (74,730 inmates) were women. 

     As of last December 31, one in every 118 men and
one in every 1,818 women were under the jurisdiction
of state or federal correctional authorities.

     As of June 30, 1996, there were 518,492 men and
women held in local jails, either awaiting trial or
serving sentences of one year or less.  Added to the
number of prison inmates, there were more than 1.6
million incarcerated adults in this country.

     During the decade from 1985 through 1995 there
was a 12.3 percent average annual increase in the
number of Hispanic inmates among state prisoners,
compared to a 9.4 percent increase for blacks and 7.6
percent for whites.

     At the end of last year, California (147,712
inmates), Texas (132,383) and the federal system
(105,544) held one-third of all prisoners, whereas 15
states, with fewer than 5,000 inmates each, together
held only 3 percent of all prisoners.

     By last December 31 the national rate of
incarceration of prisoners serving more than one year
had reached 427 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents--up
from 292 prisoners in 1990.

     Among the 50 states, Texas had the highest
incarceration rate, 686 prisoners serving sentences of
more than one year per 100,000 population, while North
Dakota had the lowest, 101 prisoners per 100,000
    State prisons were operating at 16 percent to 24
percent over capacity, while federal prisons were at
25 percent in excess of capacity.
    Factors associated with the increase in state
prisoners from 1985 to 1995 (the latest year for which
the data are available) include the following:
     o    A 91 percent increase in admissions from
          1985 to 1990 and a 13 percent increase from
          1990 through 1985.
     o    A decline in annual release rates from 37
          percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 1995.
     o    A sharp rise in the number of violent
          offenders among white inmates (accounting
          for 42 percent of the 10-year growth in
          white prisoners) and in drug offenders
          among black inmates (42 percent of this
     o    An overall increase in the percent held for
          drug offenses--from 9 percent in 1985 to 23
          percent in 1995--offset by declines in
          those held for violent offenses and
          property crimes--from 54 percent in 1985 to
          46 percent in 1995.

     Growth in the state prison population has not
been the result of longer sentences.  Despite the
increasing use of mandatory minimums, sentencing
enhancements and the adoption of "truth-in-sentencing"
provisions in many states, the percentage of inmates
who received a maximum of 10 years or longer declined
from 20 percent in 1985 to 17 percent in 1995. 
Between 1985 and 1995 the average maximum sentence
imposed on prisoners declined from 78 months to 66
months.  Data suggest that the recent rise in state
prison populations may be linked to the increasing
length of time served and declining rates of release. 
State prisoners released for the first time in 1995
had served an average of 24 months, compared to 20
months in 1985 and 22 months in 1990.
 The report, "Prisoners in 1996" NCJ-164619), was
written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and
Christoper J. Mumola.  Single copies may be obtained
from the BJS fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550 
or calling the BJS Clearinghouse number 1-800-732-3277.  
Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-4358.  BJS's 
homepage on the Internet is: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/
  Additional criminal justice materials can be
obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage
at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov

After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354 

Date Published: June 22, 1997