JPI Press Release: New numbers show “alarming growth” in incarceration; Justice Department survey shows biggest increase since 2000

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2007 – 12:00 EST Contact: Laura Jones, Phone: 202-558-7974, ext. 307 or Cell: 202-425-4659 or Jason Ziedenberg, Cell: 510-332-6503 New numbers show “alarming growth” in incarceration; Justice Department survey shows biggest increase since 2000 California responsible 1 out of 5 new people in prison last year WASHINGTON – After six years of slowing growth prison and jail populations, new statistics due out Wednesday from the Justice Department show an alarming increase in incarceration across the U.S. According to Prisoners and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006, a new survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics embargoed for release noon Wednesday, June 27 the midyear accounting for prison and jail growth found that “in both absolute numbers and percent change, the increase was the largest since midyear 2000.” The new survey showed that about 6 out of 10 people in prison and jail were African American or Latino, and that nearly 5 percent of African American men were in prison or jail. The new survey showed that one out of every five new people added to prison in the United States were in California. “Once again, communities of color are paying for our troubled criminal justice policies,” said Jason Ziedenberg, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute. “The population increase in the already overburdened prison system indicates an alarming growth that should not go unchecked. Billions of public safety dollars are absorbed by prison expansion and limits the nation’s ability to focus on more effective strategies to promote public safety.” When considering the growth, JPI points out that: There is little relationship between prison growth and change in violent crime: Coming just weeks after the Justice Department released its preliminary crime statistics for 2006, regional imbalance in the growth of prison underscore how little relationship there is between crime and the use of incarceration. The two regions that experienced the least change in prison populations (the Northeast, +1.7 percent increase, and the South, +1.2 percent) either experienced a decline in violent crime, or marginal change in violent crime.[1] By contrast, the West saw the biggest increase in violent crime of any region (+2.8 percent), and the biggest increase in the use of incarceration (5.2 percent). The Midwestern region also saw an increase in violent crime (+2.1), and prison growth (+3.0 percent). Some states have reduced prison populations and closed prisons, and others have enacted billion dollar expansion plans. Some states and jurisdictions (8 out of 51) saw no growth, or declining prison populations. Maryland, where prison populations have been falling for the last 4 years, recently closed a prison, potentially saving the state tens of millions of dollars. By contrast, 20 percent of new prisoners added last year were in California, where numerous proposals to reduce prison sentences, reform parole, and provide more resources to drug-involved people in the criminal justice system failed to be enacted. California legislations recently voted for multi-billion dollar prison expansion plan. ### The Justice Policy Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank dedicated to ending society’s reliance on incarceration and promoting effective and just solutions to social problems. See www.justicepolicy.org.
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