For the first time since 2009, the inmate population increased last year. That was the major takeaway from last week’s Bureau of Justice Statistics report on state and federal prison population size in 2013.

Prison populations peaked in 2009 at over 1.6 million and, until this year, numbers had been slowly decreasing. On the last day of 2013, there were 1,574,700 individuals incarcerated in state and federal facilities. That represents an increase of about 4,300 — .3 percent — over 2012. However, for the first time since 1980, the number of federal inmates decreased. That minor decrease (about .9 percent or 1,900 inmates) was more than offset by the increase in the number of state prisoners (up about 6,300).

Despite the total population increase, the imprisonment rate still saw a slight decrease. In 2012 it was 480 per 100,000 and in 2013 it was 478 per 100,000. (Note that these numbers — as with all the numbers referenced in this report — do not include jail populations. The overall imprisonment rate in the U.S. is over 700 per 100,000 if you count county jail populations.)

From 2012 to 2013, the female prison population saw a much larger increase than the male population. While the number of male prisoners grew by .2 percent, the number of females increased by 3 percent. In New York, the overall prison population decreased by a little over 1 percent, but the female population increased by nearly 5 percent.

Overall, blacks made up about 37 percent of the prison population, while whites accounted for 32 percent and Hispanics 22 percent. (That meant that on the last day of 2013 almost 3 percent of the black male population was incarcerated.) Interestingly, though, in the female population, 49 percent were white and 22 percent black.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, told the New York Times that the modest population decreases caused by sending non-violent drug felons (who often would have served relatively short sentences) to drug courts is offset by the fact that more life and multidecade sentences are being imposed.


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