The New York Times reports that nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department.
The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002. It also came when a growing number of states facing large budget deficits have begun trying to reduce prison costs by easing tough sentencing laws passed in the 1990’s, thereby decreasing the number of inmates.
At the end of 2002, there were 2,166,260 Americans in local jails, state and federal prisons and juvenile detention facilities, the report found. Another important finding was that 10.4 percent of black men ages 25 to 29, or 442,300 people, were in prison last year. By comparison, 2.4 percent of Hispanic men and 1.2 percent of white men in the same age group were in prison.