[JURIST] The US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics [official website] announced Wednesday that the US prison and jail population, already the largest in the world, increased by 2.8 percent to reach over 2.2 million prisoners in 2006 [press release]. The findings, released in the DOJ's annual Prison and Jail Inmates report [PDF text], represent the largest increase in prison population since 2000, which the DOJ attributes to tougher sentencing laws, an increased number of drug offenders, and an increased crime rate. The report found prison population increases in 43 of 51 jurisdictions, and also found little change in the number of noncitizens in the prison population.
The report also found racial disparities among prisoners, with black males representing 37 percent of the prison population. More than 11 percent of black males between the ages of 25 and 34 are currently incarcerated, compared to 1.9 percent for Hispanics and 0.7 percent for white males. The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, with approximately 750 per 100,000 of the national population, representing approximately 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population despite despite only having 5 percent of the world's population. Reuters has more.