One in 32 American Adults
Are in the Corrections System
By Jennifer Loven
Associated Press Writer
Aug 26, 2001
WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of adults
behind bars, on parole or on probation reached a record 6.47 million in
2000 - or one in 32 American adults, the government reported Sunday.
On the positive side, the percentage
increase from 1999 was half the average annual rate since 1990.
Jails and prisons held 30 percent of the
adults in the corrections system, or 1,933,503. People on probation
accounted for 59 percent of the total, or 3,839,532. An additional 725,527
adults were on parole, a period of supervision following release from
Over the past two decades, the number of
adults in the corrections system has tripled, so they now make up 3.1
percent of the country's adult population, compared with 1 percent in
1980, said Allen J. Beck, a chief researcher with the Justice Department's
Bureau of Justice Statistics.
"It's just overwhelming," said
Kara Gotsch, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union's
National Prison Project, which advocates alternatives to incarceration.
"It just shows that we need to put much more into prevention."
During the 1990s, the corrections
population increased 49 percent. By the end of last year, there were 2.1
million more adults in the system than there were in 1990.
The rate of growth was 2 percent between
1999 and 2000, compared with an average of 4 percent during the 1990s.
Beck attributed the slowing growth to the cumulative effect of a general
drop in crime rates that began in the 1990s.
"This could be the beginning of a
peak," said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at
Northeastern University in Boston.
Nearly 2.5 million people were released
from parole or probation in 2000. Among parolees, half successfully
completed the terms of their release in 1990. By 2000, just 43 percent
completed parole and stayed out through the end of the year.
Among those released from community
supervision in 2000, 15 percent of probationers and 42 percent of parolees
were sent back to prison or jail that year for new violations. Fox said
that figure underestimates the large number who will probably be convicted
Beck noted that the number of Americans who
have returned to prison has remained stable over time.
To Gotsch, that shows the shortsightedness
of corrections policies that focus more on punishment and less on
"It's no wonder that they're
re-offending at incredibly high rates because we don't teach them anything
else," she said.
The report also showed:
-Among those on probation, 52 percent were
convicted of felonies, the most frequent of which was driving under the
influence, followed by drug offenses.
-The percentage of women in the prison
population, as well as their percentages among probationers and parolees,
-The states with the largest percentage of
their adult population in the corrections system were Georgia, 6.8
percent, and Texas, 5 percent. At the other end were West Virginia, New
Hampshire and North Dakota, each with 0.9 percent.
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