Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

July 26, 2004 - The New York Times (NY)

U.S. 'Correctional Population' Hits New High

By Fox Butterfield

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The number of Americans under the control of the criminal justice system grew by 130,700 last year to reach a new high of nearly 6.9 million, according to a Justice Department report released today. (See Press Release, below. The full report is available in PDF format at

The total includes people in jail and prison as well as those on probation and parole. This is about 3.2 percent of the adult population in the United States, the report said.

The growth in what the report termed the "correctional population" comes at a time when the crime rate nationwide has been relatively stable for several years. It also comes when many states, faced with budget deficits, have passed new, less strict sentencing laws in an attempt to reduce the number of inmates.

The report does not address why the number of men and women in jail and prison and on probation and parole has continued to increase. But experts say the most likely reason is the cumulative effect of the tougher sentencing laws passed in the 1990's, which led to more people's being sent to prison and being required to serve longer terms.

The report found that there were 691,301 people in local and county jails and 1,387,269 in state and federal prisons last year, for a total of 2,078,570. That was an increase of 3.9 percent in the jail population and 2.3 percent in the prison population.

At the same time, the report said, there were 4,073,987 Americans on probation at the end of last year, an increase of 1.2 percent from the end of 2002, and 774,588 on parole, up 3.1 percent.

In general, people on probation have been placed there after being convicted of a crime instead of being sent to jail or prison. People on parole have usually already served prison time and are kept on parole for further supervision.

About 41 percent of adults on parole last year were black; 40 percent were white.

The number of women on parole has steadily increased in recent years, the report found. The percentage of parolees who were women was 13 percent at the end of 2003, up from 10 percent at the end of 1995. This increase reflects a slow but steady growth in the number of women being arrested for and convicted of serious crimes.

Of those people discharged from parole in 2003, 38 percent were returned to prison, either because of a technical violation like failing a drug urine test or because they were charged with committing a new crime. Another 9 percent absconded and could not be located by law enforcement, the report said.

The 3.1 percent increase in the number of people on parole, the biggest in at least a decade, troubles many police and prosecutors, because they believe that newly released inmates are likely to return to a life of crime and are a major source of violence in some cities, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Texas led the nation with 534,260 people on probation or parole, followed by California, with 485,039.

Bureau of Justice Statistics [Press Release]


Contact: Stu Smith 202/307-0784, After hours: 301-983-9354


WASHINGTON, D.C. The nation's combined federal, state and local adult correctional population reached a new record of almost 6.9 million men and women in 2003, an increase of 130,700 people since December 31, 2002, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.

The correctional population of 6,889,800 includes people incarcerated in prisons and jails as well as those on probation and parole. On June 30, 2003, 1,387,269 adults were incarcerated in federal and state prisons and 691,301 inmates in local jails. And as of December 31, 2003, 4,073,987 adults were on probation - a period of supervision in the community following a conviction - and 774,588 on parole - a period of conditional supervised release following a prison term.

About 3.2 percent of the nation's adult population, or 1 in every 32 adult residents, were incarcerated or on probation or parole in 2003. The adult probation population grew by 49,920 men and women, slightly less than half the average annual growth of 2.9 percent since 1995. The nation's parole population grew by 23,654 men and women in 2003, or 3.1 percent, almost double the average annual growth of 1.7 percent since 1995.

At the end of last year, the number of adults on probation or parole reached a record high of more than 4.8 million, which was 70 percent of all persons under federal, state or local correctional supervision. More than 1 million of the nation's probationers and parolees were in Texas (534,260) and California (485,039).

Four states had an increase of 10 percent or more in their probation populations in 2003- Kentucky (up 17 percent), Mississippi (up 15 percent) and Nebraska and New Hampshire (each up 12 percent). The adult probation population decreased in 19 states, led by Minnesota (down 10 percent).

As of last December 31, more than half of the probationers were white, 30 percent were black, 12 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were of other races. Women comprised 23 percent of all adults on probation.

About 71 percent of probationers were under active supervision and were required to regularly report to a probation authority in person, by mail or by telephone. Forty-nine percent of all probationers had been convicted of a felony, 49 percent of a misdemeanor and 2 percent of other infractions. Twenty-five percent had been convicted of a drug offense, 17 percent for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol, 12 percent for larceny or theft, 9 percent for other assault, 7 percent for domestic violence, 6 percent for minor traffic infractions, 5 percent for burglary, 4 percent for fraud and 3 percent for sexual assault.

Of the almost 2.2 million probationers discharged from supervision during 2003, about 3 in 5 had successfully met the conditions of their supervision. About 16 percent were incarcerated because of a rule violation or a new offense, and 4 percent had absconded.

Seventeen states had double-digit increases in their parole populations in 2003. Five states had increases of 20 percent or higher:

North Dakota (53 percent), Alabama (31 percent), Kentucky (27 percent), New Hampshire (25 percent) and New Mexico (23 percent). Twelve states had decreases, led by Hawaii (down 11 percent).

Of those in the community last year who were on parole, 13 percent were women. Forty-one percent were black, 40 percent were white, 18 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were of other races. About 83 percent of all parolees were under active supervision and were required to regularly contact a parole authority in person, by mail or by telephone.

About 470,500 parolees were discharged from supervision during 2003. Forty-seven percent had successfully met the conditions of their supervision, 38 percent were returned to incarceration with a new sentence or because of a rule violation, and about 9 percent had absconded.

The bulletin, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2003" (NCJ-205336), was written by BJS statisticians Lauren E. Glaze and Seri Palla. Following publication this document can be accessed at:

For additional information about Bureau of Justice Statistics reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and two offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed program. Information about OJP programs, publications, and conferences is available on the OJP web site,

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact