The Bureau of Justice just released two bulletins last week which examine the numbers of defendants under probation or parole supervision for 2008. The report discusses related trends, including an overall increase in the number of individuals being released from federal and state prisons.
Highlights include the following:
* The U.S. prison population grew at the slowest rate (0.8%) since 2000, reaching 1,610,446 sentenced prisoners at year end 2008.
* Growth of the prison population since 2000 (1.8% per year on average) was less than a third of the average annual rate during the 1990s (6.5% per year on average).
* Between 2000 and 2008 the number of blacks in prison declined by 18,400, lowering the imprisonment rate to 3,161 men and 149 women per 100,000 persons in the U.S. resident black population.
My opinion? Politicians are finally acknowledging that (1) incarcerating people is an expensive luxury, and (2) the “War on Drugs” is not working. Although I don’t know for sure, I’m confident the majority of these “early release” defendants were convicted of low-level drug crimes. Similarly, I’m confident the courts are sending fewer people to prison if they’ve been convicted of drug crimes.