The nation’s correctional population–prisons, jails, probation, and parole–increased .5 percent last year, about one third of the average annual growth rate since 2000, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. At the end of last year, there were 7.3 million people under correctional supervision, including 5.1 million supervised in the community on probation or parole and 2.3 million in prison or jail.
State and federal correctional authorities had more than 1.6 million prisoners at the end of 2008, the equivalent of about one in every 198 persons in the U.S. Growth in the prison population slowed to 0.8 percent during 2008, the smallest annual rate of growth since 2000. Adam Gelb of the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project noted that, “The significant differences between the states, even within the same
geographic region, show that it’s policy choices that are responsible
for the size and cost of state prison systems, not crime trends or broad
social and economic forces beyond the influence of state and local