The federal government has been tracking prison populations across the nation since 1926. This year marked the 91st time the Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a report detailing its results.
This was the third consecutive year that the number of prisoners with sentences of more than one year in prison declined.
There are an estimated 1,505,400 prisoners in state and federal prisons as of Dec. 31, 2016 — 21,200 less than 2015.
State prisons held 13,900 fewer prisoners in 2016 than in 2015, and the federal prison population decreased by 7,300.
The national incarceration rate decreased 2 percent, from 459 prisoners per 100,000 US residents of all ages in 2015 to 450 per 100,000 in 2016.
Nearly half (47 percent) of federal prisoners had been sentenced for drug offenses on Sept. 30, 2016, the most recent date for which federal offense data was available.
The number of prisoners held in private facilities in 2016 (128,300) increased 2 percent from year-end 2015.
The number of females sentenced to more than one year in state or federal prison increased by 500 from 2015 to 2016.
“Tennessee is 17.1 percent Black, but Blacks make up 69 percent of all drug-free school zone offenders…” REASON Magazine, January 2018
11 percent of prisoners sentenced to more than one year in state or federal prison at year-end 2016 were age 55 or older.
Incarceration and Race
There were 6,100 more Hispanics sentenced to more than one year in prison in 2016 than in 2015; an increase of 1 percent.
About 2.5 percent of Black male U.S. residents were in state or federal prison on Dec. 31, 2016 (a rate of 2,415 per 100,000 Black residents).
Black males ages 18 to 19 were 11.8 times more likely to be imprisoned than White males of the same age. This age group had the highest Black-to-White racial disparity in 2016.
Black males age 65 or older were 4.4 times more likely to be imprisoned than their White counterparts. This age group had the lowest Black-to-White racial disparity in 2016.
The imprisonment rate for Black females (96 per 100,000 Black female residents) was almost double that for White females (49 per 100,000 White female residents).
Among females ages 18 to 19, Black females were 3.1 times more likely than White females, and 2.2 times more likely than Hispanic females, to be imprisoned in 2016.
Prison Bed Capacity
At the end of 2016, a total of 14 states and the federal prison system met or exceeded the maximum measure of their prison facilities’ capacity, and 27 states and the federal prison system had enough prisoners in custody to meet or exceed their minimum number of beds.
Five states housed at least 20 percent of their prison population in privately operated facilities at year-end 2016: New Mexico (43 percent), Montana (39 percent), Oklahoma (27 percent), Tennessee (26 percent), and Hawaii (25 percent).