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U.S. prison population increased at slower rate in 1997

Prison August 2, 1998
Web posted at: 8:49 p.m. EDT (0049 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The number of adult prisoners in U.S. jails increased in 1997, although at a slower rate, according to new Justice Department figures.

The total number of state and federal prisoners increased by 5.2 percent, down from an average annual growth rate of 7 percent recorded since 1990.

The figures from the Justice Department's Bureau of Statistics show that 61,186 men and women were added to the prison rolls last year, bringing the total to 1.24 million inmates nationwide.

In addition, there were 567,000 men and women in local jails, awaiting trial or serving sentences. With those prisoners included, the overall number of incarcerated adults in the United States totaled more than 1.7 million.

The relative number of female prisoners continued to increase faster than male prisoners. Female inmates now account for 6.4 percent of all prisoners, up from 5.7 percent in 1990.

Nine states reported prison population increases of more than 10 percent in 1997. Four states had increases of at least 14 percent, including Hawaii with 23 percent, West Virginia with 15 percent, Alaska with 14 percent, and Maine with 14 percent.

The only jurisdictions with a decrease in the prison population were Oregon, Montana, New Mexico and the District of Columbia.

State prisoners continue to outnumber federal prisoners about 10 to one.

Officials said the overall increase in the nation's prison inmate population has totaled more than 60 percent over the last seven years.

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