2009 State Prison Population Decline, First Since 1972: 2,941


The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics today confirmed a trend reported this spring by the Pew Center on the States: State prison population totals dropped last year for the first time since 1972. BJS said the decrease was 2,941 inmates, or .2 percent. Still, a slight majority of states, 26 to 24, reported prison population increases. The biggest increase was in Pennsylvania, up 2,214. The largest drop was in Michigan, down 3,260.

Five other states reported declines of more than 1,000 prisoners: California (down 2,395), New York (down 1,660), Mississippi (down 1,272), Texas (down 1,257), and Maryland (down 1,069). Other states with the largest increases were Florida (up 1,527), Louisiana (up 1,399), Alabama (up 1,282) and Arizona (up 1,038). The federal prison population increased by 6,838 (or 3.4 percent) which accounted for all of the increase in the U.S. prison population. At yearend 2009, the U.S. prison population (state and federal prisoners combined) reached 1,613,656, increasing by 0.2 percent during the year. The increase of 3,897 prisoners was the smallest annual increase during the current decade. Non-U.S. citizens accounted for 4.1 percent (94,498 inmates) of the inmates held in custody in state or federal prisons. An additional 2,778 inmates held in state custody were under age 18.

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