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July 30, 2020

Federal prison population, per BOP reporting, now down to 157,862

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.  This week's update suggests again that the federal prison population might be getting closer to flattening out as we see a decline that is considerably lower than in weeks past.  But the decline continues and remains significant.

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 the last week of July, we have hit another new historic low with the new BOP numbers at this webpage reporting "Total Federal Inmates" at 157,862.  But this represents a decline of "only" 543 persons from last week's total of 158,405, which had been a decline of only 433 persons from the previous week's reported total.  Put another way, it took two weeks in the second part of July to see the roughly 1000 person drop in the prison population that we were seeing each week in earlier months. 

I remain 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 hopeful that we will eventually get some sentencing data from the USSC that can help us better understand these prison data, but now five months into the pandemic the USSC still seems in no rush to provide any inkling of how the federal criminal sentencing process has been impacted. 

A few of many prior related posts:

July 30, 2020 at 12:14 PM | Permalink


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