HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html US Prisons Swell By Nearly 900 Inmates Per Week In 2004
Pubdate: Sun, 24 Apr 2005
Source: Southern Illinoisan (Carbondale, IL)
Copyright: 2005 Southern Illinoisan


WASHINGTON -- Growing at a rate of about 900 inmates each week between 
mid-2003 and mid-2004, the nation's prisons and jails held 2.1 million 
people, or one in every 138 U.S. residents, the government reported Sunday.

By last June 30, there were 48,000 more inmates, or 2.3 percent, more than 
the year before, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice 

The total inmate population has hovered around 2 million for the past few 
years, reaching 2.1 million on June 30, 2002, and just below that mark a 
year later.

While the crime rate has fallen over the past decade, the number of people 
in prison and jail is outpacing the number of inmates released, said the 
report's co-author, Paige Harrison. For example, the number of admissions 
to federal prisons in 2004 exceeded releases by more than 8,000, the study 

Harrison said the increase can be attributed largely to get-tough policies 
enacted in the 1980s and 1990s. Among them are mandatory drug sentences, 
"three-strikes-and-you're-out" laws for repeat offenders, and 
"truth-in-sentencing" laws that restrict early releases.

"As a whole most of these policies remain in place," she said. "These 
policies were a reaction to the rise in crime in the '80s and early 90s."

Added Malcolm Young, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which 
promotes alternatives to prison: "We're working under the burden of laws 
and practices that have developed over 30 years that have focused on 
punishment and prison as our primary response to crime."

He said many of those incarcerated are not serious or violent offenders, 
but are low-level drug offenders. Young said one way to help lower the 
number is to introduce drug treatment programs that offer effective ways of 
changing behavior and to provide appropriate assistance for the mentally ill.

According to the Justice Policy Institute, which advocates a more lenient 
system of punishment, the United States has a higher rate of incarceration 
than any other country, followed by Britain, China, France, Japan and Nigeria.

There were 726 inmates for every 100,000 U.S. residents by June 30, 2004, 
compared with a year earlier, according to the report by the Justice 
Department agency. In 2004, one in every 138 U.S. residents was in prison 
or jail; the previous year it was one in every 140. 
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