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January 10, 2008

Federal prison population soon to exceed 200,000

As detailed in this page of quick facts about the federal prison population, as of December 29, 2007, the federal inmate population was 199,616.  Because this population in recent years has tended to grow at least a few hundred persons each month, it seems very likely that very soon the federal inmate population will exceed 200,000 total persons.

Notably, according to this 1995 annual report from the federal Bureau of Prisons, it was only a little more than 10 years ago that the federal prison population surged past 100,000 total inmates.  Moreover, the latest data indicate that more than half of the federal inmate population now are incarcerated for drug offenses.  Thus, there are now more persons serving federal prison time just for drug offenses than comprised the entire federal prison population just over a decade ago.

I am not sure if I am troubled more by this basic data or by the fact that precious few public officials, media pundits or academics seem seriously interested in examining the remarkable modern growth in the federal prison population.  While there seems to an endless obsession with the few thousand murderers who are on death row, stunningly little attention is paid to the hundreds of thousands of individuals subject to severe terms of incarceration for having committed far less serious crimes.  I suppose I should just add a question about the federal prison population to this list of questions I wish the media would ask all the wannabe presidential candidates.

January 10, 2008 at 07:43 AM | Permalink


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This is cause for celebration, right?

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 10, 2008 7:52:16 AM

It's more disturbing to think how much the federal system has become involved in the criminal process. Everything has become a federal crime... what do the federalists sa about this I wonder?

Posted by: Steve | Jan 10, 2008 8:38:20 AM

A few years ago the BOP posted a very detailed distribution of the prison federal population. It was a one-time report and it does not appear to be on the web now. My recollection is there were a substantial number of drug conspiracy charges. A federal prison term on a drug conspiracy charge seems rather vindictive a fine or community service and supervision would be more like it.

Posted by: John Neff | Jan 10, 2008 10:06:41 AM

And, I might add, the BOP system was at 134% capacity nationwide in 2006.

Posted by: Dennis Terez | Jan 10, 2008 7:11:30 PM

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