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Prisoners in 1998

SUNDAY, AUGUST 15, 1999               202/307-0784 


     WASHINGTON, D.C.   The nation's state and
federal prison population grew by almost 60,000
inmates during 1998 the states and the District of
Columbia added 49,798 prisoners and the federal
system added 10,068, the Justice Department's
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced
today.  On December 31, 1998, state and federal
prisons held 1,302,019 inmates.  Overall, the
prison population grew 4.8 percent during the
year, which was less than the average annual
growth rate of 6.7 percent since 1990.
     There were an additional 592,462 adult
inmates in local jails, according to a BJS
bulletin, bringing the total incarcerated
population to more than 1.8 million men and women.
     In 1998 there were 461 inmates sentenced to
at least a year in prison per 100,000 U.S.
residents, compared to 292 such inmates per
100,000 residents in 1990.  Among the 50 states,
Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate (736
inmates with sentences of more than one year per
100,000 residents) followed by Texas (724) and
Oklahoma (622).  Minnesota (117), Maine 
(125) and North Dakota (128) had the lowest number
of prisoners per 100,000 population.
     Since 1990 the sentenced inmate population
has grown by 65 percent in state prisons and 106
percent in federal prisons.  During this period 14
states reported increases of at least 75 percent,
led by Texas (up 155 percent)  and West Virginia
(up 122 percent).  Maine was the only state to
report an increase of less than 10 percent (up 6
     Seven states had population increases of at
least 10 percent in 1998, led by Mississippi 
(up 17 percent) and North Dakota (up 15 percent). 
Four states--Alaska (down 1.6 percent), 
Hawaii (down 1.1 percent), Massachusetts (down 1.0
percent) and Maine (down 0.5 percent) had
     During 1998 the number of women in state and
federal prisons rose by 6.5 percent, outpacing the
increase in the number of men (up 4.7 percent) for
the third consecutive year.  At yearend 1998, 
prisons held 1,217,592 men and 84,427 women. Since
1990 the number of female prisoners has increased
by 92 percent, while the number of males has grown
by 67 percent.
     The BJS bulletin reported that the factors
contributing to the state inmate growth from 1990
through 1997 (the latest data available) included:
      A 39 percent increase in the number of
parole violators returned to prison and a 4 
percent increase in the number of new court
      A drop in the annual inmate release rates
from 37 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 1997.
      An increase in the average time served in
prison by released prisoners--from 22 months in 
1990 to 27 months in 1997 as well as an increase
in the time entering prisoners were expected to
serve--from 38 months in 1990 to 43 months in
      A small but growing number of inmates (10
percent) who will serve 20 years  or more in
prison and 5 percent who will never be released.
     In 1997 (the latest available data) the
incarceration rate for black males in their late
twenties was 8,630 per 100,000 residents, compared
to 2,703 among Hispanic males and 868 among white
     Although incarceration rates drop with age,
the rate among black males age 45 to 54 in 1997
was 2,775 per 100,000 residents larger than the
highest rate among Hispanic males (age 25 to 29)
and 3 times larger than the highest rate (950 per
100,000) among white males (age 30 to 34). 
Overall, black men and women were at least 6 times
more likely than whites to have been in prison at
yearend 1997.
     As of December 31, state prisons were
operating at 13 to 22 percent over capacity, while
federal prisons were 27 percent over capacity.  
Thirty-three states reporting operating at 100
percent or more of capacity.  California, with its
prison population at twice the capacity, had the
most crowded system.   Utah was the least crowded
-- 81 percent.  Seventeen states and the  
District of Columbia eased prison crowding by
placing inmates in other states or in federal
facilities. Wisconsin placed the most (3,028),
followed by the District of Columbia (2,660) and
Michigan (1,317).
     The bulletin, "Prisoners in 1998" (NCJ-175687)
was written by BJS statistician Allen J. Beck
and BJS policy analyst Christopher J. Mumola. 
Single copies may be obtained from the BJS
fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550, listening
to the complete menu and selecting document
number 166.  Or call the BJS Clearinghouse number:
1-800-732-3277.  Fax orders for mail delivery to
410/792-4358.  The BJS Internet site is:
     Additional criminal justice materials can be
obtained from the Office of Justice Programs
homepage at:

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After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354
Date Published: August 15, 1999