The nation’s prison population keeps growing, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Overall, 2,267,787 people were in federal, state, and local corrections facilities at the end of 2004. The prison population growth rate was 1.9 percent last year, less than the average annual growth of 3.2 percent since the end of 1995. Slightly over half of the state inmates were in prison on violent offenses at the end of 2002 (latest available data.) About 21 percent in state facilities were behind bars on drug offenses; in federal prisons, more than half of 158,000 inmates were held on drug charges as of 2003.
Texas edged out California for the highest number in state custody. Texas housed 168,105 inmates compared with California’s 166,556. The lowest number in state custody was North Dakota’s 1,327. In terms of inmates per 100,000 residents, Louisiana led the nation with 816, followed by Texas, 694, and Mississippi, 669. The lowest rate was Maine’s 148. Women were 7 percent of inmates, up from 6.1 percent in 1995. The state with the largest percentage increase was Minnesota, 11.4 percent. Eleven states had prison population decreases. They were led by Alabama, 7.3 percent and Rhode Island, down 2.8 percent.