|Prison numbers reach new high
By Fox Butterfield
New York Times
Monday, July 26, 2004 - The number of Americans under the control of the
criminal justice system grew by 130,700 last year to reach a new high of
nearly 6.9 million, according to a Justice Department report that is being
The total includes people in jail and prison as well as those on probation
and parole. This is about 3.2 percent of the adult population in the United
States, the report said.
The growth in what the report termed the "correctional population" comes at
a time when the crime rate nationwide has been relatively stable for
several years. The report does not address why the number of men and women
in jail and prison and on probation and parole has continued to increase.
But experts say the most likely reason is the cumulative effect of the
tougher sentencing laws passed in the 1990s.
The report found that there were 691,301 people in local and county jails
and 1,387,269 in state and federal prisons last year, for a total of
2,078,570. That was an increase of 3.9 percent in the jail population and
2.3 percent in the prison population.
At the same time, there were 4,073,987 Americans on probation at the end of
last year, an increase of 1.2 percent from the end of 2002, and 774,588 on
parole, up 3.1 percent. The number of women on parole has steadily
increased in recent years. Women totaled 13 percent of parolees at the end
of 2003, up from 10 percent at the end of 1995.
This increase reflects a slow but steady growth in the number of women
being arrested for and convicted of serious crimes.
The 3.1 percent increase in the number of people on parole, the biggest in
at least a decade, troubles many police and prosecutors, because they
believe that newly released inmates are likely to return to a life of crime
and are a major source of violence in some cities, including Boston,
Chicago and Los Angeles.
Texas led the nation with 534,260 people on probation or parole, followed
by California, with 485,039.