The 2002 U.S. prison population increase of 2.6 percent, to 2.17 million, came at a challenging time for states mired in a deep fiscal crisis, according to a roundup report at Stateline.org.
According to The Sentencing Project, a non-profit research and advocacy organization, states spend about $40 billion annually on prisons. About 55 percent of all inmates are housed in state prisons.
“States can’t continue to support the current population growth given the budget crisis they’re facing,” said Justice Department statistician Paige Harrison.
Meanwhile, a New York Times editorial urged lawmakers, whose “get-tough” policies helped filled prisons, to find ways to reduce the bulge.
The paper said, “The price of imprisoning so many Americans is too high, in scarce tax dollars and in wasted lives. Congress and state legislatures should find ways to reduce the number of people behind bars.”