[JURIST] Over seven million men and women were in prison, in jail or on probation or parole in the US in 2006, accounting for 3.2 percent of the total US adult population, or 1 in every 31 adults, according to a report [press release; PDF text] released by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday. Five million of those 7.2 million people were on probation or parole and the total correctional population incresed by 159,500 people in 2006. While the number of women in prison was at a record high in 2006, increasing to 112,498 prisoners, the report found that the percentage of black men in federal and state prisons dropped to 38 percent, down from a record high of 43 percent in 2000. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities saw a marked increase in the number of prisoners held there, as they housed 43 percent more prisoners in 2006 than in 2005. The report also noted that privately owned prisons housed 113,791 state and federal prisoners at the end of the 2006 year, and 96 percent of the 1,502,179 prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction were serving a sentence of more than one year in prison. The New York Times has more.
Rising numbers of inmates in US prisons has been a concern for years. A report [PDF text] released in November by the JFA Institute [advocacy website] concluded that the US prison population is currently eight times as high as it was in 1970 [JURIST report], but zealous prosecution and tough sentencing guidelines have done little to curb crime. The US prison and jail population added prisoners [press release; JURIST report] from mid-2004 to mid-2005 at a rate of 2.6 percent and more than 1,000 new inmates a week, reaching a total of 2,186,230 inmates behind bars, according to a Justice Department Bureau of Justice Statistics [official website] report [summary; PDF text] released last year. Between 1997 and 2004, the racial makeup of the prison population has remained steady, but the number of women incarcerated in the US has seen a large upswing, growing 757 percent between those years [JURIST report], according to a report [text] released by the Women's Prison Association [advocacy website].