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The prison population of the United States is in a constant state of flux, increasing or decreasing based on a number of factors, including the number of arrests, length of prison sentences, parole, legislation to determine what is legal and what is not, and so on.

In 2000, the state and federal prison population of the United States stood at 1,381,892. In 1990 the total prison population numbered only 773,905, by 2002 it had risen to around 2.1 million. 1 of every 143 US residents is in prison in 2002, or roughly 474 out of every 100,000 Americans. This is around 22% of the total world prison population.

The three states with the lowest ratio of imprisoned to unimprisoned population are: Minnesota (121 per 100,000), Maine (128/100,000), and North Dakota (120/100,000). The three states with the highest ratio are: Louisiana (763/100,000), Texas (704/100,000), and Oklahoma (653/100,000).

The United States has the highest proportionate prison population of any reporting world nation. Russia, which is currently in the process of releasing a number of improperly incarcerated citizens, has a rate of 644 per 100,000, and a 2002 total population of around 900,000. For the most part, the U.S. rate is five to eight times that of the Western European nations and Canada. The rate in England and Wales, for example, is 139 persons imprisoned per 100,000 residents while in Norway it is 59 per 100,000.

In terms of federal prison, 57 percent of those incarcerated are for drug offenses. Currently, considering local jails as well, almost a million of those incarcerated are in prison for non-violent crime.

In 1993, roughly 2 1/2 percent of the U.S. population, or 4.9 million adults, were either on parole, probation, or in (local) jails or (state and federal) prisons.

In 2002 roughly 88% of prisoners were male. About 12 percent of all black males in the United States between the ages of 20 and 39 were in prison, compared to 4 percent of Hispanic males and 1.6 percent of white males.

See also: crime, law, war on drugs

External links


Daniel Burton-Rose, Dan Pens, Paul Wright (Eds.): The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry. Common Courage Press; Reprint edition (February 1998). ISBN 1567511406.