US Inmate Population Surpasses 2.1 Million

Washington, DC: There are now more than 2.1 million Americans incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails, according to a report released this week by the US Department of Justice. The figure is the highest ever recorded in the history of the United States, and represents a one-quarter increase in the US inmate population since 1995.

Prisoners in the custody of the 50 states and the federal system accounted for two-thirds of the incarcerated population (1.4 million inmates), while the other third were held in local jails (714,000 inmates).

Among black males age 25 to 29, approximately 13 percent were in prison or in jail, compared to less than 2 percent of white males in their late twenties. Overall, one in every 138 US residents is in prison or jail, the report concluded.

Authors of the report cited mandatory drug sentences as one of the primary reasons for the sharp increase in the US inmate population over the past decade.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the Department of Justice report, “Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004,” is available online at: