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July 23, 2020

Declines in federal prison population, per BOP reporting of "Total Federal Inmates," trending lower

Regular readers are used to my regular Thursday morning updates on COVID-era changes in the federal prison population based on the federal Bureau of Prisons' weekly updated "Total Federal Inmates" numbers.  After months of historic declines, it appears that the federal prison population might be getting closer to flattening out as this week's decline is much lower than we have seen in weeks past.

This prior post detailed that, according to BOP's reporting, most weeks through April the federal prison population shrunk around or over 1,000 persons per week; through May, as detailed here, the pace of weekly decline increased to an average of around 1,200 fewer reported prisoners; through June, as detailed here, declines continued at a slightly reduced rate of about 950 fewer persons reported in all federal facilities on average per week.  As of late July, we have hit another new historic low with the new BOP numbers at this webpage reporting "Total Federal Inmates" at 158,405.  But this represents a decline of "only" 433 persons from last week's reported total of 158,838, and that number was itself a decline of "only" 854 persons from the prior week's total of 159,692. 

I am inclined to guess that more COVID-delayed sentencings and stalled federal prison transfers may now be moving forward; but the lack of any real-time data from the US Sentencing Commission and the opaque nature of BOP data make it hard to be sure just what the reported population numbers represent.  I am unsure just what to predict for the federal prison population in the weeks and months ahead, though I am sure I will keep following this notable echo of our persistent pandemic problems.  

A few of many prior related posts:

July 23, 2020 at 09:49 AM | Permalink


Since 2017 the number of dea agents has decreased and is now at the same level as 2003. Even though the number has decreased - the decrease is only about 400 agents since from it's high.

The federal prison system has a very high % of drug offences compared to state and local facilities - currently 46 % This may account for some of the decrease.

Posted by: beth curtis | Jul 23, 2020 5:09:08 PM

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