Washington, DC: There are more than 2 million Americans incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails, according to a report released this week by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The figure is highest ever recorded in the history of the United States.
An estimated 12 percent of those incarcerated are African-American males between the ages of 20 and 34, the report found. Previous DOJ reports have calculated that 28 percent of African-American men will be incarcerated during their lifetime. Overall, one in every 142 US residents is now in prison or jail.
Despite the overall increase in US state and federal inmates, the report noted that California experienced a 2.2 percent decrease in its total prisoners in 2002. The report attributed the decline to the passage of Proposition 36 in 2000, which mandates non-violent drug offenders be sentenced to probation and treatment instead of prison.
"Proposition 36 is working as voters intended and helping California buck this unfortunate nationwide trend," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.
Today's inmate population is roughly four times what it was in the mid-1970s, and nearly twice what it was in 1990. About 25 percent of US inmates are incarcerated on drug-related charges.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. The report, "Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2002," is available online at: