The U.S. correctional population dropped again last year but only .7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today. The slowing of the decline indicates that mass incarceration in the nation is not likely to end any time soon. The numbers in prison and on probation dropped, but the parole population was stable and the jail population rose by almost 9,000, BJS said. In all, nearly 7 million people were under correctional supervision at year-end 2012, 1 in 35 U.S. adults and the lowest rate since 1997. BJS said the decrease in prison admissions drove the prison population decline, with 609,800 offenders admitted to state or federal prisons in 2012 and 637,400 released.
The federal prison system had the largest population, 196,600, followed by Texas’ 157,900, and California’s 134,200. James Austin, a consultant on prison issues, observed that, “The slowing rate of reduction in the entire correctional system is consistent with recent forecasts by many states showing that either their
prison populations have stabilized or are actually beginning to increase. For example, California and Arkansas, which reported the largest declines in their prison populations, are not projected to increase thus erasing some of the gains they had achieved. Other states like Mississippi, New York, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio are examples of states that are projecting no further declines or increases. Unless states begin reduce the lengths of imprisonment to what they were in the 1990s America’s current incarceration rates and so called mass incarceration will remain constant or even increase.”