US jail figures up 5 per cent in a year

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The Independent Online
The United States prison population has increased by nearly 100,000 inmates to more than 1.7 million in the 12 months that ended last 30 June, the Justice Department reported.

The department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said in its annual report that the number of prisoners increased by more than 96,000, or nearly 5 per cent, from 1 July 1996 to 30 June 1997.

At the end of June there were nearly 1.1 million state prisoners, more than 560,000 local jail inmates and more than 99,000 federal prisoners. The report said the steepest increase took place in local jails, which held about 9,100 juveniles.

The largest jail population was in Los Angeles County, with 21,900 inmates, followed by New York City with 17,500 inmates and Chicago's Cook County with more than 9,100 inmates.

Since 1990, the number of people in custody has risen by more than 577,100. The report found that one in 155 US residents was behind bars at mid- 1997. The trend of more incarcerated criminals began in 1980. The report gave no reason for the increase, but experts have cited a number of factors, including tough new sentencing laws and more drug arrests.

- Reuters, Washington