Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bureau of Justice Statistics -- Growing Slower

16 States Report Declines in the Number of Prisoners

WASHINGTON – As of June 30, 2008, state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction or legal authority over 1,610,584 prisoners. Additionally, 785,556 inmates were held in custody in local jails, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today.

During the six months ending June 30, 2008, the prison population increased by 0.8 percent, compared to 1.6 percent during the same period in 2007. The local jail population increased by 0.7 percent during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2008, accounting for the slowest growth in 27 years.

Sixteen states reported decreases in their prison populations. California (down 962 prisoners) and Kentucky (down 847) reported the largest decreases since yearend 2007.

While the prison populations in the remaining 34 states increased, growth slowed in 18 of these states. For these 18 states, prison populations increased by 1.6 percent in the first half of 2008 as compared to the increase of 3.1 percent in the first half of 2007. Minnesota experienced the largest growth rate (up 5.2 percent) in the first six months of 2008, followed by Maine (up 4.6 percent) and Rhode Island and South Carolina (both up 4.3 percent).

The federal prison system added 1,524 prisoners in the first six months of 2008, reaching a total of 201,142 prisoners. The 0.8 percent growth represented the smallest increase in the first six months since 1993 (when BJS began collecting data at midyear).

State and federal prisoners in private facilities increased 6.8 percent during the 12-month period, reaching 126,249 at midyear 2008. The federal system (32,712), Texas (19,851), and Florida (9,026) reported the largest number of prisoners in private facilities.

As of June 30, 2008, over 2.3 million inmates, or one in every 131 U.S. residents, were held in custody in state or federal prisons or in local jails, regardless of sentence length or conviction status. Since yearend 2000, the nation’s prison and jail custody populations have increased by 373,502 inmates (or 19 percent).

Bureau of Justice Statistics Reports
The U.S. prison and jail population has reached a record high exceeding 2.3 million people, according to a new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. An analysis of the new data by The Sentencing Project finds broad variation in incarceration trends throughout the nation. While the overall state prison population rose by 12.8% from 2000-2008, individual state trends range from an increase of 59.7% in Minnesota to a decline of 12% in New York during this period.

Issue Area(s): Incarceration
Overall, the analysis finds that 9 states registered more than 30% growth in their prison systems from 2000-2008:

  • Minnesota - 59.7%
  • West Virginia - 59.6%
  • Florida - 40.9%
  • Kentucky 39.6%
  • Indiana - 38%
  • Colorado - 37.4%
  • Oregon - 33%
  • Idaho - 32.6%
  • Virginia - 32.3 %

Only two states - New York and New Jersey - registered declines during the eight-year period, 12% and 11.1% respectively.

Over the past year a number of states have adopted policies designed to reduce their prison populations. These include enhanced good time credits in prison in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, reducing the number of returning technical parole violators in Kansas and New Jersey, and enhanced parole reentry in Michigan. These policy changes may contribute to the declining rate of growth in state prisons and local jails noted in the BJS report.

"The rapid rise in prison populations over the past two decades has now collided with the fiscal crisis," stated Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project. "As a result, there is now strong bipartisan support for reconsidering overly harsh sentencing policies that have filled prison cells."

The Sentencing Project analysis also notes that the federal prison population passed the 200,000 mark for the first time, and has risen at more than three times the rate of the state figures. The number of people in federal prisons increased by 44.3% from 2000-2008, compared to the 12.8% rise in state prison populations. More than half the federal prison population is comprised of drug offenders, compared to about 20% in state prisons.

At the national level, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) last week described American incarceration policy as "a national disgrace" in introducing the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009. The bipartisan legislation would create a blue-ribbon commission to develop recommendations for how to reform "every aspect of our criminal justice system."