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US prison population up again: DOJ

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) [official website] released two new reports Friday detailing increased populations in American jails and prisons [BJS reports, PDF; BJS press release]. The reports show that the US prison population increased by 1.5 percent from mid-year 2006 to mid-year 2007, compared with 2 percent growth in the previous reporting period. Approximately 2.3 million Americans were incarcerated as of June 30, 2007, with over 700,00 detained in local jails and over 1.5 million being held in federal and state prisons. The reports also noted that African-American males aged 30-34 had the highest incarceration rate of any race, age, or gender group. Human Rights Watch US program director David Fathi reacted to the reports, saying [HRW press release] "Americans should ask why the US locks up so many more people than do Canada, Britain, and other democracies."

The DOJ inmate statistics follow a May HRW report [text, PDF; HRW press release] alleging that the US war on drugs disproportionately targets urban minority neighborhoods. That report also alleged that in 34 states, an African-American man is 11.8 times more likely than a white man to be sent to prison on drug charges, and an African-American woman is 4.8 times more likely to be sent to prison on drug charges than a white woman.

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