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SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 1997202/633-3047


WASHINGTON -- The nation's adult prison population grew by 55,876 inmates last year, bringing the total to a new record of 1,182,169 prisoners as of last December 31, the Justice Department reported today. The 1996 increase was the equivalent of adding 1,075 more inmates each week.

The number of female prisoners grew 9.1 percent during the year, almost double the 4.7 percent increase in male inmates. At the end of the year, 6.3 percent (74,730 inmates) were women.

The report, by the Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), said the number of prisoners more than doubled between 1985 and 1996--growing from 502,507 to 1,182,169.

At the end of last year, California (147,712 inmates), Texas (132,383) and the federal system (105,544) held one-third of all prisoners, whereas 15 states, with fewer than 5,000 inmates each, together held only 3 percent of all prisoners.

By last December 31 the national rate of incarceration of prisoners serving more than one year had reached 427 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents--up from 292 prisoners in 1990.

Among the 50 states, Texas had the highest incarceration rate, 686 prisoners serving sentences of more than one year per 100,000 population, while North Dakota had the lowest, 101 prisoners per 100,000 population.

State prisons were operating at 16 percent to 24 percent over capacity, while federal prisons were at 25 percent in excess of capacity.

As of last December 31, one in every 118 men and one in every 1,818 women were under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities.

As of June 30, 1996, there were 518,492 men and women held in local jails, either awaiting trial or serving sentences of one year or less. Added to the number of prison inmates, there were more than 1.6 million incarcerated adults.

During the decade from 1985 through 1995 there was a 12.3 percent average annual increase in the number of Hispanic inmates among state prisoners, compared to 9.4 percent for blacks and 7.6 percent for whites.

Factors associated with the increase in state prisoners during the 1985-1995 period (the latest year for which the data are available) include the following:

A 91 percent increase in admissions from 1985 to 1990 and a 13 percent increase from 1990 through 1995.

A decline in annual release rates from 37 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 1995.

A sharp rise in the number of violent offenders among white inmates (accounting for 42 percent of the 10-year growth in white prisoners) and in drug offenders among black inmates (42 percent of this growth).

An overall increase in the percent held for drug offenses--from 9 percent in 1985 to 23 per in 1995--offset by declines in those held for violent offenses and property crimes--from 54 percent in 1985 to 46 percent in 1995.

The report, "Prisoners in 1996" (NCJ-164619), was written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and Christopher J. Mumola. Single copies may be obtained from the BJS fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550 or calling the BJS Clearinghouse number 1-800-732-327. Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-4358. BJS's homepage address on the Internet is :

Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage at:

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BJS97087 (F)

After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354