> Justice > USA > Prison, jail,
inmates > Federal prison / jail
the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum
otherwise known as the ADX, in Florence, Colo.
Photograph: Jamey Stillings for The New York Times
Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison
MARCH 26, 2015
A cell at the federal prison in El Reno, Okla.,
which President Obama visited in July to build support
for overhauling the criminal justice system.
Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times
U.S. to Release 6,000 Inmates From Prisons
OCT. 6, 2015
U.S. prison populations
The number of inmates
in state and federal prisons
decreased by 1.7 percent,
to an estimated 1,571,013 in 2012
from 1,598,783 in 2011,
according to figures released
by the Bureau of Justice Statistics,
an arm of the Justice Department.
Although the percentage decline
the fact that it followed
decreases in 2011 and 2010
offers persuasive evidence
of what some experts say
is a “sea change”
in America’s approach
to criminal punishment.
Alcatraz Island, California
former federal prison that was infamous
as the end of the line for the nation's
most incorrigible and violent criminals
The Federal Bureau of Prisons BOP
federal prison system
in the most secure prison
in Florence, Colo.
Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind.
federal inmate population > women
Women make up only about 7 percent
of the federal inmate population,
but their numbers have grown
in recent years,
in part because of the war on drugs.
Most women in federal prisons
are there for
like drug and property offenses.
Many such inmates could be housed
that provide drug treatment,
mental health care
and other services.
Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Conn.
is the sole women-only
federal prison in the Northeast
and is part of a complex
that typically incarcerates
low-security female offenders
from Maine to Pennsylvania.
The aging hulk of the facility dates from 1940
and has housed women for nearly 20 years.
Supermax federal prison
Curtail Stiff Drug Sentences
The New York Times
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
— In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration will
move on Monday to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors
to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level
drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum
sentences for drug-related offenses.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a speech at the American Bar
Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco on Monday, is expected to announce
the new policy as one of several steps intended to curb soaring taxpayer
spending on prisons and help correct what he regards as unfairness in the
justice system, according to his prepared remarks.
Saying that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for
no good law enforcement reason,” Mr. Holder is planning to justify his policy
push in both moral and economic terms.
“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread
incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and
unsustainable,” Mr. Holder’s speech says. “It imposes a significant economic
burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral
costs that are impossible to calculate.”
Mr. Holder will also introduce a related set of Justice Department policies that
would leave more crimes to state courts to handle, increase the use of
drug-treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration, and expand a program
of “compassionate release” for “elderly inmates who did not commit violent
crimes and have served significant portions of their sentences.”
The policy changes appear to be part of Mr. Holder’s effort, before he
eventually steps down, to bolster his image and legacy. Turmoil over the
Congressional investigation into the botched Operation Fast and Furious gun
trafficking case ensnared him in the Obama administration’s first term, and more
recently, controversy has flared over the department’s aggressive tactics in
In recent weeks, he has also tightened rules on obtaining reporters’ data in
leak cases and started an effort to strengthen protections for minority voters
after the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The
move continued an assertive approach to voting rights and other civil rights
enforcement throughout his tenure.
Mr. Holder’s speech on Monday deplores the moral impact of the United States’
high incarceration rate: although it has only 5 percent of the world’s
population, it has 25 percent of its prisoners, he notes. But he also attempts
to pre-empt political controversy by painting his effort as following the lead
of prison reform efforts in primarily conservative-led Southern states.
Under a policy memorandum being sent to all United States attorney offices on
Monday, according to an administration official, prosecutors will be told that
they may not write the specific quantity of drugs when drafting indictments for
drug defendants who meet the following four criteria: their conduct did not
involve violence, the use of a weapon or sales to minors; they are not leaders
of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs
or cartels; and they have no significant criminal history.
For example, in the case of a defendant accused of conspiring to sell five
kilograms of cocaine — an amount that would set off a 10-year mandatory minimum
sentence — the prosecutor would write that “the defendant conspired to
distribute cocaine” without saying how much. The quantity would still factor in
when prosecutors and judges consult sentencing guidelines, but depending on the
circumstances, the result could be a sentence of less than the 10 years called
for by the mandatory minimum law, the official said.
It is not clear whether current cases that have not yet been adjudicated would
be recharged because of the new policy.
Amid a rise in crime rates a generation ago, state and federal lawmakers began
passing a series of “tough on crime” laws, including mandatory minimum sentences
for drug possession. But as crime rates have plummeted to 40-year lows and
reduced the political potency of the fear of crime, fiscal pressures from the
exploding cost of building and maintaining prisons have prompted states to find
alternatives to incarceration.
Driven in part by a need to save money, several conservative-leaning states like
Texas and Arkansas have experimented with finding ways to incarcerate fewer
low-level drug offenders. The answers have included reducing prison terms for
them or diverting them into treatment programs, releasing elderly or
well-behaved inmates early, and expanding job training and re-entry programs.
The policy is seen as successful across the ideological divide. For example, in
Texas, which was an early innovator, taxpayers have saved hundreds of millions
of dollars on what had been projected as a need to build prison space. With
crime rates remaining at generational lows, the space is no longer necessary.
Several years ago, a group called Right on Crime formed to push what it calls
the “conservative case for reform.” Its Republican affiliates include Jeb Bush,
a former Florida governor; Edwin R. Meese III, an attorney general during the
Reagan administration; and Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker.
“While the federal prison system has continued to slowly expand, significant
state-level reductions have led to three consecutive years of decline in
America’s overall prison population — including, in 2012, the largest drop ever
experienced in a single year,” Mr. Holder’s speech says. “Clearly, these
strategies can work. They’ve attracted overwhelming, bipartisan support in ‘red
states’ as well as ‘blue states.’ And it’s past time for others to take notice.”
Still, in states that have undertaken prison and parole overhauls, the changes
were approved by state lawmakers. Mr. Holder’s reform is different: instead of
going through Congress for legislation to modify mandatory minimum sentencing
laws, he is invoking his power of prosecutorial discretion to sidestep them.
Earlier in Mr. Obama’s presidency, the administration went through Congress to
achieve policy goals like reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and
powder forms of cocaine. But it has increasingly pursued a strategy of invoking
unilateral executive powers without Congress, which the White House sees as
bogged down by Republican obstructionism.
Previous examples, like Mr. Obama’s decision last year to issue an executive
order allowing immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children to
remain without fear of deportation and to work, have drawn fire from Republicans
as “power grabs” that usurp the role of Congress.
Mr. Holder’s speech marches through a litany of statistics about incarceration
in the United States. The American population has grown by about a third since
1980, he said, but its prison rate has increased nearly 800 percent. At the
federal level, more than 219,000 inmates are currently behind bars — nearly half
for drug-related crimes — and the prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent
above their official capacity.
Justice Dept. Seeks to Curtail Stiff Drug Sentences,
In Area Packed With Prisons,
a Split on Adding Jihadists
May 23, 2009
The New York Times
By KIRK JOHNSON
Colo. — Prison is a way of life here, and always has been. The old territorial
prison started it all in 1868 at the end of Main Street, anchoring a community
and an economy with its massive tan stone walls and turrets. Generations later,
more than 5,000 inmates in state and federal lockups, from minimum security to
the so-called supermax, ring the town like a bracelet.
But when it comes to the idea of transferring those suspected or convicted of
terrorism from the prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba to federal high-security
prisons like the one just down the road in Florence, as the Obama administration
has proposed, Lyle Jacobson draws the line.
“It would make us a target,” said Mr. Jacobson, an 84-year-old retired
accountant. “I think it’s very dangerous.”
Mr. Jacobson, who said he was a prisoner of war in Germany for nine months near
the end of World War II, said he was not so worried about escapes. The prisons
are secure enough, he said, and in fact there have been no escapes from the
Administrative Maximum prison in Florence, the only one in the federal system.
Rather, it is the international attention — a bull’s-eye for terrorists and
their allies — that he fears could be drawn around this part of southeast
Al Ballard is just as vocal and opinionated the other way.
“Bring them on,” said Mr. Ballard, who owns a tea house in town with his wife,
Linda. “I don’t worry a lick.”
Mr. Ballard said the prison in Florence was so well run and secure and isolated
that people here would not notice a thing. “We do need more guards though,” he
In a speech on Thursday, President Obama said it would be safe to transfer many
Guantánamo inmates to high-security prisons in the United States, noting that
the corrections system already holds hundreds of convicted terrorists. A Justice
Department spokesman, Matt Miller, said 216 international terrorists were in
federal prisons, as well as 139 domestic terrorists. All have been convicted and
are in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.
That kind of transfer is not a blasé topic here. Opinions are instant and
strong. And there is a base of experience. Many of the terrorists the president
cited already reside in Florence, including Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and Ramzi
Yousef, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Ahmed Ressam, the
“millennium bomber”; Wadih El-Hage, a member of Al Qaeda convicted of the 1998
embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.
Nonetheless, when the word Guantánamo comes up, so do questions of politics and
safety, and for some, religion and culture — taut and intertwined and loaded
“People here are good Christian conservatives,” said Tom Baron, who described
himself as a struggling small-business man, co-owner with his wife, Marie, of
Donuts and Dogs, a coffee shop. Mr. Baron said he thought that large numbers of
Muslims — the family members and friends of inmates — would move into town if
the transfer occurred. Property values would fall, he said, and some family
members of terrorists might be terrorists, too.
“That would destroy this community,” Mr. Baron said.
Fine-print legal definitions of who exactly can be labeled a terrorist under
federal law have also become bound up in the debate about transfers. Not all of
those mentioned by the president were actually convicted of terrorism. The
Bureau of Prisons classifies inmates it holds — some of whom might have been
convicted of, say, multiple murder counts — as terrorists if their crimes were
intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or a government by mass
destruction, assassination or kidnapping.
Politics quickly finds a way into the discussion after that. Mr. Obama, though
he carried Colorado as a whole last November, fared badly here in Fremont
County, winning only about a third of the vote.
“I wouldn’t expect people in Fremont County to favor the president’s positions,”
said State Representative Liane McFadyen, a Democrat whose district in Fremont
County includes 12 prisons — eight run by the state and four by the federal
bureau. Ms. McFadyen said she had mostly heard opposition from constituents.
And where politics and local concerns about safety collide, the mix is volatile.
“These people hate America; they truly hate America,” said Glen Morlan, a
disabled welder. “Why would you want to bring them here?”
Mr. Morlan said that he had not voted for Mr. Obama and that he thought the idea
of closing Guantánamo was bad for national security — and the community. And
that makes him dislike Mr. Obama all the more.
Some people do in fact shrug their shoulders about the question of detainee
Sherry Meins, a school aide at Garden Park High School, was enjoying the last
day of school on Friday, sitting outside in the sun on a bench on Main Street.
Ms. Meins said the system of security alerts in town was so elaborate and well
honed as to be almost second nature, so much that she did not think Guantánamo
detainees would change anything.
The schools, she said, regularly practice “lockdowns” that would take place in
the event of an inmate escape. And even if a prisoner did get out, she said, he
probably wanted to get out of town as fast as possible, not hang around Cañon
“Our children our safe,” Ms. Meins said.
Ms. McFadyen, the state representative for the area, said transfers might be
moot anyway unless prisoners already in Florence were moved elsewhere.
“On top of everything else, there’s no room at the supermax,” she said. “It’s
contributed reporting from Denver.
In Area Packed With Prisons, a Split on Adding Jihadists, NYT,
Inmate Count in U.S.
Dwarfs Other Nations’
The New York Times
By ADAM LIPTAK
States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a
quarter of the world’s prisoners.
Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection
of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime
and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to
using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And
in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other
Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are
mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.
The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more
than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center
for Prison Studies at King’s College London.
China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant
second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of
thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s
extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out
political activists who have not committed crimes.)
San Marino, with a population of about 30,000, is at the end of the long list of
218 countries compiled by the center. It has a single prisoner.
The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison
studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751
people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only
adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)
The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with
627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates.
England’s rate is 151; Germany’s is 88; and Japan’s is 63.
The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.
There is little question that the high incarceration rate here has helped drive
down crime, though there is debate about how much.
Criminologists and legal experts here and abroad point to a tangle of factors to
explain America’s extraordinary incarceration rate: higher levels of violent
crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in
combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social
safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected,
another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.
Whatever the reason, the gap between American justice and that of the rest of
the world is enormous and growing.
It used to be that Europeans came to the United States to study its prison
systems. They came away impressed.
“In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the
United States,” Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured American penitentiaries in
1831, wrote in “Democracy in America.”
“Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with
horror,” James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale, wrote last
year in Social Research. “Certainly there are no European governments sending
delegations to learn from us about how to manage prisons.”
Prison sentences here have become “vastly harsher than in any other country to
which the United States would ordinarily be compared,” Michael H. Tonry, a
leading authority on crime policy, wrote in “The Handbook of Crime and
Indeed, said Vivien Stern, a research fellow at the prison studies center in
London, the American incarceration rate has made the United States “a rogue
state, a country that has made a decision not to follow what is a normal Western
The spike in American incarceration rates is quite recent. From 1925 to 1975,
the rate remained stable, around 110 people in prison per 100,000 people. It
shot up with the movement to get tough on crime in the late 1970s. (These
numbers exclude people held in jails, as comprehensive information on prisoners
held in state and local jails was not collected until relatively recently.)
The nation’s relatively high violent crime rate, partly driven by the much
easier availability of guns here, helps explain the number of people in American
“The assault rate in New York and London is not that much different,” said Marc
Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy
group. “But if you look at the murder rate, particularly with firearms, it’s
Despite the recent decline in the murder rate in the United States, it is still
about four times that of many nations in Western Europe.
But that is only a partial explanation. The United States, in fact, has
relatively low rates of nonviolent crime. It has lower burglary and robbery
rates than Australia, Canada and England.
People who commit nonviolent crimes in the rest of the world are less likely to
receive prison time and certainly less likely to receive long sentences. The
United States is, for instance, the only advanced country that incarcerates
people for minor property crimes like passing bad checks, Mr. Whitman wrote.
Efforts to combat illegal drugs play a major role in explaining long prison
sentences in the United States as well. In 1980, there were about 40,000 people
in American jails and prisons for drug crimes. These days, there are almost
Those figures have drawn contempt from European critics. “The U.S. pursues the
war on drugs with an ignorant fanaticism,” said Ms. Stern of King’s College.
Many American prosecutors, on the other hand, say that locking up people
involved in the drug trade is imperative, as it helps thwart demand for illegal
drugs and drives down other kinds of crime. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey,
for instance, has fought hard to prevent the early release of people in federal
prison on crack cocaine offenses, saying that many of them “are among the most
serious and violent offenders.”
Still, it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison
policy. Indeed, the mere number of sentences imposed here would not place the
United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled
based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries
would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so
the total incarceration rate is higher.
Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, according
to Mr. Mauer, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.
Many specialists dismissed race as an important distinguishing factor in the
American prison rate. It is true that blacks are much more likely to be
imprisoned than other groups in the United States, but that is not a
particularly distinctive phenomenon. Minorities in Canada, Britain and Australia
are also disproportionately represented in those nation’s prisons, and the
ratios are similar to or larger than those in the United States.
Some scholars have found that English-speaking nations have higher prison rates.
“Although it is not at all clear what it is about Anglo-Saxon culture that makes
predominantly English-speaking countries especially punitive, they are,” Mr.
Tonry wrote last year in “Crime, Punishment and Politics in Comparative
“It could be related to economies that are more capitalistic and political
cultures that are less social democratic than those of most European countries,”
Mr. Tonry wrote. “Or it could have something to do with the Protestant religions
with strong Calvinist overtones that were long influential.”
The American character — self-reliant, independent, judgmental — also plays a
“America is a comparatively tough place, which puts a strong emphasis on
individual responsibility,” Mr. Whitman of Yale wrote. “That attitude has shown
up in the American criminal justice of the last 30 years.”
French-speaking countries, by contrast, have “comparatively mild penal
policies,” Mr. Tonry wrote.
Of course, sentencing policies within the United States are not monolithic, and
national comparisons can be misleading.
“Minnesota looks more like Sweden than like Texas,” said Mr. Mauer of the
Sentencing Project. (Sweden imprisons about 80 people per 100,000 of population;
Minnesota, about 300; and Texas, almost 1,000. Maine has the lowest
incarceration rate in the United States, at 273; and Louisiana the highest, at
Whatever the reasons, there is little dispute that America’s exceptional
incarceration rate has had an impact on crime.
“As one might expect, a good case can be made that fewer Americans are now being
victimized” thanks to the tougher crime policies, Paul G. Cassell, an authority
on sentencing and a former federal judge, wrote in The Stanford Law Review.
From 1981 to 1996, according to Justice Department statistics, the risk of
punishment rose in the United States and fell in England. The crime rates
predictably moved in the opposite directions, falling in the United States and
rising in England.
“These figures,” Mr. Cassell wrote, “should give one pause before too quickly
concluding that European sentences are appropriate.”
Other commentators were more definitive. “The simple truth is that imprisonment
works,” wrote Kent Scheidegger and Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice
Legal Foundation in The Stanford Law and Policy Review. “Locking up criminals
for longer periods reduces the level of crime. The benefits of doing so far
offset the costs.”
There is a counterexample, however, to the north. “Rises and falls in Canada’s
crime rate have closely paralleled America’s for 40 years,” Mr. Tonry wrote last
year. “But its imprisonment rate has remained stable.”
Several specialists here and abroad pointed to a surprising explanation for the
high incarceration rate in the United States: democracy.
Most state court judges and prosecutors in the United States are elected and are
therefore sensitive to a public that is, according to opinion polls, generally
in favor of tough crime policies. In the rest of the world, criminal justice
professionals tend to be civil servants who are insulated from popular demands
for tough sentencing.
Mr. Whitman, who has studied Tocqueville’s work on American penitentiaries, was
asked what accounted for America’s booming prison population.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the answer is democracy — just what Tocqueville was
talking about,” he said. “We have a highly politicized criminal justice system.”
Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’, NYT, 23.4.2008,
Record - High Ratio
of Americans in Prison
Filed at 11:12 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
(AP) -- For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American
adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in
inmate population and urging states to rein in corrections costs with
alternative sentencing programs.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50
states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than
$11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six
times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in
U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 -- one out of every 99.1 adults, and
more than any other country in the world.
The steadily growing inmate population ''is saddling cash-strapped states with
soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on
recidivism or overall crime,'' said the report.
Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes
are prompting officials in many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections
policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing
soft in crime.
''We're seeing more and more states being creative because of tight budgets,''
she said in an interview. ''They want to be tough on crime, they want to be a
law-and-order state -- but they also want to save money, and they want to be
The report cited Kansas and Texas as states which have acted decisively to slow
the growth of their inmate population. Their actions include greater use of
community supervision for low-risk offenders and employing sanctions other than
reimprisonment for ex-offenders who commit technical violations of parole and
''The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two states to
ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders while helping less
dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying citizens,'' the report said.
According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in 36 states
and the federal prison system.
The largest percentage increase -- 12 percent -- was in Kentucky, where Gov.
Steve Beshear highlighted the cost of corrections in his budget speech last
month. He noted that the state's crime rate had increased only about 3 percent
in the past 30 years, while the state's inmate population has increased by 600
The Pew report was compiled by the Center on the State's Public Safety
Performance Project, which is working directly with 13 states on developing
programs to divert offenders from prison without jeopardizing public safety.
''For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn't been a clear and
convincing return for public safety,'' said the project's director, Adam Gelb.
''More and more states are beginning to rethink their reliance on prisons for
lower-level offenders and finding strategies that are tough on crime without
being so tough on taxpayers.''
The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a
parallel increase in crime or in the nation's overall population. Instead, it
said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures,
such as ''three-strikes'' laws, that result in longer prison stays.
''For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling,'' the
report said. ''While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars,
for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine.''
The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and
federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails -- a total 2,319,258 out of almost
230 million American adults.
The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead
of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S.
also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of
Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the
rest of the Top 10.
On the Net:
Record - High Ratio of Americans in Prison, NYT,
Justice Dept. Numbers
Show Prison Trends
The New York Times
By SOLOMON MOORE
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’s 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
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
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.
Justice Dept. Numbers Show Prison Trends,
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