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26 Crime. & Just. 17 (1999)
Population Growth in U.S. Prisons, 1980-1996

handle is hein.journals/cjrr26 and id is 23 raw text is: Alfred Blumstein and Allen J. Beck

Population Growth in
U.S. Prisons, 1980-1996
State and federal incarceration rates grew by over 200 percent between
1980 and 1996. The dominant factor is drug offending, which grew by ten
times, followed by assault and sexual assault. The growth can be
partitioned among four stages: offending rates; arrests per offense;
commitments to prison per arrest; and time served in prison, including
time served on parole recommitments. The growth in incarceration for
drugs is driven most strongly by growth in arrest rates, then by
commitments per arrest; there is some increase in time served, but only in
the federal system. For other offenses, there are no changes in arrests per
reported offense and a net decline in offending rates. Over the full period,
the growth in state incarceration for nondrug offenses is attributable
entirely to sentencing increases: 42 percent to commitments per arrest
and 58 percent to time-served increases. Recently, new court
commitments and parole violations have flattened out; the dominant
contributor to current growth for all the offenses examined is time served.
Incarceration rates rose faster for women (364 percent) and minorities
(184 percent for African Americans and 235 percent for Hispanics) than
for men (195 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (164 percent).
The United States over the past seventy-five years has experienced a
dramatic change in its use of incarceration. For the first fifty of those
years, the incarceration rate was strikingly stable at approximately 110
sentenced state and federal prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents. The
Alfred Blumstein is J. ErikJonsson University Professor of Urban Systems and Oper-
ations Research at H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, Car-
negie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Allen J. Beck is Chief of Corrections
Statistics at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, D.C. They thank Carol Zier-
man for her help in data analysis.
© 1999 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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