A record seven million Americans – or one in every 32 adults – were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday. More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of last year. The statistics show that while prison releases are increasing, admissions are increasing faster.
Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing at a faster rate – the number of women inmates in state or federal prison increased by 2.6 percent while the number of males rose by 1.9 percent. By the end of last year, 7 percent of all inmates were women.
“Today’s figures fail to capture incarceration’s impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison,” said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group supporting criminal justice reform.
“Misguided policies that create harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenses are disproportionately responsible for the increasing rates of women in prisons and jails.”
From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.
The numbers are from the annual report from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report breaks down inmate populations for state and federal prisons and local jails.
Racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men – about one in 13 – are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men. It is a similar story for women. Black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanic and more than three times as likely as white women to be in prison.