The number of inmates in U.S. prisons likely will rise nearly 13% during the next five years, costing states up to $27.5 billion in new operating and construction expenses, according to a new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Pew report, to be released today, projects the nation’s prison population will be about 1.72 million by 2011, up from an estimated 1.53 million at the end of last year. Such an increase would roughly equal the current population of the federal prison system, reports USA Today.
Pew analysts said the growth is being fueled by mandatory minimum sentences that have stretched prison terms for many criminals, declines in inmates granted parole and other policies that states have passed in recent years to crack down on crime. In some states, the study said, high rates of repeat offenders also have been a factor in boosting prison populations. Prison authorities in Montana, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho and Vermont could see their prison systems grow by one-third or more if there are no changes to the states’ sentencing and release policies, the study said. “The projected growth is phenomenal,” said a Pew official.