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Record 7 million adults in prison system { October 2006 }

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Record 7 Million U.S. Adults in Prison, on Parole or Probation
By Robert Schmidt

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- A record seven million men and women, or about 3 percent of the adult U.S. population, were incarcerated, on probation or parole at the end of last year, the Justice Department said. The prison population has been swelled by prosecutions for drug offenses and immigration violations.

The number of Americans held in prisons or jails rose 1.9 percent last year to 2.2 million inmates. There were 4.2 million men and women on probation and 784,408 on parole, according to the agency. It released two reports today on the number of people under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities.

Prisoners sentenced for drug crimes continue to be the largest group of federal inmates, making up 55 percent of the prison population in 2003, the Justice Department said. That number is down from 1995, when drug offenders made up 60 percent of federal inmates.

Immigration offenses increased 394 percent from 1995 to 2003, and prisoners charged with immigration violations made up 10 percent of federal inmates. The number of prisoners charged with weapons offenses rose about 120 percent during that time.

The federal prison system is operating 34 percent over capacity, the department said. State prisons have added bed space at a faster rate than the growth in the inmate population and some aren't full, according to the agency.

Fourteen states increased their prison population by at least 5 percent and 11 states reported decreases last year, the department said. The federal government, with 187,618 inmates, houses the most prisoners, followed by California with 170,676 and Texas with 169,003.

The rate of U.S. adult residents under supervision by the correctional system almost tripled between 1980 and 2005, the agency said.

The reports, issued annually, were written by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Last Updated: November 30, 2006 10:40 EST

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