The nation’s prison population grew .8 percent during the first six months of last year, compared with 1.6 percent during the same period in 2007, says a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. As of June 30, 2008, there were 1,610,584 prisoners in state and federal faciltiies. Adding 785,556 in local jails, the national custody count neared 2.4 million. Over all, prison populations rose in 34 states and declined in 16. California (down 962 prisoners) and Kentucky (down 847) reported the largest decreases since the end of 2007.
Prison growth slowed in 18 of the 34 states where it was up. Minnesota reported the largest growth rate (up 5.2 percent) in the first six months of 2008, followed by Maine (up 4.6 percent) and Rhode Island and South Carolina (both up 4.3 percent). The federal prison system added 1,524 prisoners in the first six months of 2008, reaching 201,142. The 0.8 percent national growth rate was the smallest increase in the first six months since 1993, when the statistics agency began collecting data at midyear). State and federal prisoners in private facilities increased 6.8 percent during the 12-month period, reaching 126,249 at midyear 2008.