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Good News, Everyone: The US Prison Population Is Slowly Declining

The number of inmates in federal and state lockups dropped by a whopping 1 percent in 2014, a new survey shows.

by Scott Masters Pierce
Sep 17 2015, 6:59pm

Image via Flickr User Amanda Slater

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The number of inmates in state and federal prisons around America dropped by 1 percent in 2014 from the year before, according to a press release from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. As of December 31, 2014, there were about 1.56 million inmates in those facilities, 15,400 less than were incarcerated at the end of 2013.

In August, then US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal prison population was on a 12-month downswing for the first time since 1980, but the BJS report includes state as well as federal lockups. The number of incarcerated men dropped in 22 states, the number of incarcerated women dropped in 17, and the federal system saw a decline in both genders of prisoners.

But the number of women sentenced to more than a year increased by 2 percent overall, and the number of incarcerated women is the highest its been in six years. Additionally, in 18 states and the federal system, facilities "were operating at more than 100 percent of their maximum prison facility capacity." The number of inmates in private prisons is on the rise as well, with that population going from 69,000 to 131,300 since 1999.

Unsurprisingly, black men continue to be disproportionately incarcerated. In 2014, 516,900 black men were imprisoned, compared to 453,500 white and 308,700 hispanic men.

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