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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
US prison figures rise
Arrest
Civil rights groups say the prison population is too high
A record 6.6 million people in the United States were either in jail or under community supervision at the end of last year, according to new statistics released by the US Justice Department.

The numbers, which showed an increase of 147,700 from the previous year, now mean a total of one in 32 adults throughout the US is either in jail, on parole or on probation.

Texas had more adults under correctional supervision than any other state, followed by California.

"We're setting a new record every day," said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group pushing for alternatives to incarceration.

"The overall figures suggest that we've come to rely on the criminal justice system as a way of responding to social problems in a way that's unprecedented."

While the adult probation population increased by 2.8% during 2001, the number in prison grew by just 1.1%.

Nick Turner, a spokesman for the Vera Institute of Justice, told the Associated Press news agency: "The collection of reforms, from drug courts to treatment in lieu of incarceration to sentence reforms... have the effect of redirecting people from prison to probation."

The figures also showed that:

  • There has been a decline in arrests for murder, rape and other violent crimes
  • 25% of people on probation were convicted of using illegal drugs and 18% of driving while intoxicated
  • 46% of those in prison were black and 36% were white
  • Whites accounted for 55% of those on probation, while blacks made up 31%.
See also:

15 May 00 | Americas
14 Aug 02 | Americas
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