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US incarceration rates hit record high in 2003-2004

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics [official website] reported Sunday that prison incarceration rates for 2003 - 2004 hit an all-time high, with nearly 2.3 percent of the population being jailed for some length of time. The study showed that while crime is decreasing, the incarceration rate is far outstripping the release rate of US prisons. The study's co-author contributed the rise to tougher penal laws passed in the late 1980s and 1990s like "three strikes" laws, "truth in sentencing" laws, and stricter drug sentencing requirements. Prison advocacy groups are warning that the increase in incarceration coupled with the decrease in release rates is leading to a dangerous situation of overcrowding, which they argue is a violation of human rights for prison inmates. Read the Bureau of Justice Statistics official report [PDF text] and the accompanying press release. AP has more.

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