American Incarceration Rates Still Highest In World… And Rising

, – The number of Americans behind bars has more than doubled since 1985 and now stands at over 1.6 million, according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“America is the world leader in incarceration — both by number and percentage of population — and these latest figures indicate that this trend is continuing unabated,” said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup. “Much of this increase is a direct result of the ‘War on Drugs.'”

Prisoners in the custody of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government account for two-thirds of the incarcerated population. The other third are held in local jails. California houses the highest number of inmates while Texas has the highest rate of prison incarceration among its state population. The report concludes that, “One in every 163 U.S. residents [is] incarcerated.”

“Stiffening penalties against non-violent drug users has led to an explosion in American prison growth,” summarized Stroup. “Drug offenders now make up nearly two-thirds of all federal prisoners and more than one-quarter of all state and local inmates.”

For a copy of the DOJ report: Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 1996, please contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at (800) 851-3420. For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.