HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html System's Recent Growth 'Unprecedented'
Pubdate: Mon, 26 Aug 2002
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2002 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Jonathan D. Salant, Associated Press


More Than 6 Million People Behind Bars, On Probation Or Parole

WASHINGTON -- One in every 32 adults in the United States was behind bars 
or on probation or parole by the end of last year, according to a 
government report Sunday that found a record 6.6 million people in the 
nation's correctional system. The number of adults under supervision by the 
criminal justice system rose by 147,700, or 2.3 percent, between 2000 and 
2001, the Justice Department reported. In 1990, almost 4.4 million adults 
were incarcerated or being supervised. "The overall figures suggest that 
we've come to rely on the criminal justice system as a way of responding to 
social problems in a way that's unprecedented," said Marc Mauer, assistant 
director of the Sentencing Project, an advocacy and research group that 
favors alternatives to incarceration. "We're setting a new record every 
day." Almost 4 million people were on probation, 2.8 percent more than in 
2000, while the number of people in prison grew by 1.1 percent to 1.3 
million, the smallest annual increase in nearly three decades. More than 
half of those on probation -- 53 percent -- had been convicted of felonies, 
according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report. Experts noted the 
recent trend of arrests declined for murder, rape and other violent crimes. 
Many of those on probation were convicted of using illegal drugs or driving 
while intoxicated, the report showed. In addition, some states have 
eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes. California's 
Proposition 36, passed in 2000 with 61 percent of the vote, requires 
treatment rather than incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. Most of 
those drug users wind up on probation. "The collection of reforms, from 
drug courts to treatment in lieu of incarceration to sentence reforms like 
getting rid of mandatory minimums and expanding community correction 
options, have the effect of redirecting people from prison to probation," 
said Nick Turner, director of national programs for the Vera Institute of 
Justice. The nonprofit research group works with governments on criminal 
justice issues. The government report found that 46 percent of those 
discharged from parole in 2001 had met the conditions of supervision, while 
40 percent went back to jail or prison for violations. Texas had more 
adults under correctional supervision than any other state, 755,100. 
California was second with 704,900. Texas also had the most adults on 
probation, 443,684, followed by California at 350,768. Georgia had 459,200 
adults under correctional supervision -- coming in with the third highest 
total in the nation. Of those, 378,800 were on probation -- again the third 
highest total behind California and Texas -- and 80, 400 were incarcerated 
- -- ranking fifth in the nation behind California, Texas, Florida and New 
York. The number of people in Georgia county jails reached an all-time high 
in August, despite the state's dropping crime rate. This month, the number 
of inmates increased to 30,603 -- up 474 -- and 18,533 of them still were 
awaiting trial, also the highest number ever. Forty-nine county jails had 
populations above their maximum capacity, including Clarke and Chatham 
counties. Across the nation, whites accounted for 55 percent of those on 
probation, while blacks made up 31 percent, statistics show. On the other 
hand, 46 percent of those incarcerated were black and 36 percent were white.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom