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Posted On: December 12, 2002          Updated On: December 12, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

Number of Incarcerated Prisoners
Tuesday, July 30, 2002 202/307-0784


During 2001, the nationís prison population rose at the lowest rate since 1972 and had the smallest absolute increase since 1979, the Justice Departmentís Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Overall, the number of prisoners in state prisons increased by 3,193 men and women (up 0.3 percent) last year, while the federal prison system added 11,577 inmates (up 8.0 percent). During the last six months of 2001 the state prison population fell by 3,705 men and women (down 0.3 percent), while the federal prison system added 4,205 inmates (up 2.8 percent).  

As of December 31, 2001, there were 2,100,146 United States residents incarcerated in the following facilities:

State and Federal Prisons 1,324,465 1
Local Jails 631,240  
Juvenile Detention Facilities 108,965 2
U.S. Territorial Prisons 15,852  
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization facilities 8,761  
Armed Services (Military) Prisons 2,436  
Indian Country Jails 1,912  
1 Excludes inmates in local jails held for federal and state authorities
2 As of October 1999

Since 1995, the number of male state and federal prisoners has grown 24 percent, reaching 1,313,000 in 2001, whereas the number of female prisoners has increased 36 percent, reaching 93,031, or 6.6 percent of all state and federal prisoners.

The largest growth in state inmates between 1990 and 2000 was among violent offenders. During the decade the number of violent offenders grew 273,200. As a percentage of the total growth in this time period, violent offenders accounted for 53 percent.

Prisoners sentenced for drug offenses constituted the largest group of Federal inmates, 57 percent, in 2000. In addition, between 1990 and 2000, the number of Federal inmates held for weapons offenses increased 247 percent.

The bulletin, "Prisoners in 2001" (NCJ-195189), was written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison. The bulletin provides further numerous details on federal and state prisoner statistics. Single copies may be obtained by calling the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800-732-3277. In addition, this document can be accessed at:

On December 31, 2001 ...

-- 1,962,220 prisoners were held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails -- the total increased 1.3% from yearend 2000, less than the average annual growth of 3.6% since yearend 1995.

-- there were an estimated 470 prison inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents -- up from 292 at yearend 1990.

-- the number of women under the jurisdiction of State or Federal prison authorities decreased -0.2% from December 31, 2000 to December 31, 2001, reaching 93,031. The number of men rose 1.2%, totaling 1,313,000 at yearend.

At yearend 2001 ...

-- there were 3,535 sentenced black male prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,177 sentenced Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 462 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.

Between 1990 and 2000 ... 

-- the increasing number of violent offenders accounted for 53% of the total growth of the State prison population; 20% of the total growth was attributable to the increasing number of drug offenders.

Most serious offense Percent of sentenced State inmates
1990 2000
Total 100 % 100 %
Violent 46 49  
Property 25 20  
Drug 22 21  
Public-order 7 10  

Studies On Recidivism

Two studies come closest to providing "national" recidivism rates for the United States. One tracked 108,580 State prisoners released from prison in 11 States in 1983. The other tracked 272,111 prisoners released from prison in 15 States in 1994. The prisoners tracked in these studies represent two-thirds of all the prisoners released in the United States for that year.

Rearrest within 3 years

bullet67.5% of prisoners released in 1994 were rearrested within 3 years, an increase over the 62.5% found for those released in 1983

bulletThe rearrest rate for property offenders, drug offenders, and public-order offenders increased significantly from 1983 to 1994. During that time, the rearrest rate increased:
- from 68.1% to 73.8% for property offenders
- from 50.4% to 66.7% for drug offenders
- from 54.6% to 62.2% for public-order offenders

bulletThe rearrest rate for violent offenders remained relatively stable (59.6% in 1983 compared to 61.7% in 1994).

Reconviction within 3 years

bulletOverall, reconviction rates did not change significantly from 1983 to 1994. Among, prisoners released in 1983, 46.8% were reconvicted within 3 years compared to 46.9% among those released in 1994. From 1983 to 1994, reconviction rates remained stable for released:
- violent offenders (41.9% and 39.9%, respectively)
- property offenders (53.0% and 53.4%)
- public-order offenders (41.5% and 42.0%)

bulletAmong drug offenders, the rate of reconviction increased significantly, going from 35.3% in 1983 to 47.0% in 1994.

Returned to prison within 3 years

bulletThe 1994 recidivism study estimated that within 3 years, 51.8% of prisoners released during the year were back in prison either because of a new crime for which they received another prison sentence, or because of a technical violation of their parole. This rate was not calculated in the 1983 study.
BJS Sources:
Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983, April, 1989
Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994, June, 2002.


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