[JURIST] One in every 100 US adults is currently in prison, according to a report [PDF text; press release] released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States (PCS) [organization website]. The report found that males were 17 times more likely than females to be imprisoned, and that African Americans and Hispanics faced significantly higher incarceration rates than Caucasians. Since 1987, the national prison population has nearly tripled and state spending on corrections has skyrocketed to $44 billion per year, increases that the report attributed to the prevalence of stiffer sentences for nonviolent crimes and repeat offenders during the 1980s and 90s. In all, the nation's prisons house roughly 1.6 million inmates, more than any other country in the world. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.
Rising numbers of inmates in US prisons has been a concern for years. The US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) [official website] reported late last year that nationwide over two million people were in prison or jail in 2006 [JURIST report], with a total of 7.2 million people behind bars, on probation or on parole. The US prison and jail population added prisoners [press release; JURIST report] at a rate of 2.6 percent and more than 1,000 new inmates a week from mid-2004 to mid-2005, according to another 2006 BJS report [summary; PDF text]. A report [PDF text] released in November 2007 by the JFA Institute [advocacy website] concluded that the US prison population is currently eight times as high as it was in 1970 [JURIST report].