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Prison Populations Rise A Bit More Slowly In ‘96

The nation’s adult prison population grew a little more slowly last year after a 10-year surge that more than doubled the number of inmates, the Justice Department reported Sunday.

The nation’s federal and state prisons added 55,876 inmates to set a record in 1996. That was a 5 percent increase, to just over 1.18 million inmates, as of Dec. 31. Between 1985 and 1996, the average annual increase had been 8.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The slowing partly reflected the decline in major crimes over the last five years.

As of June 30, 1996, there were another 518,492 people held in local jails, which are used primarily for sentences of less than one year and for defendants awaiting or on trial.

Counting both the prison and jail inmates, there were more than 1.6 million adults behind bars as of last June 30.

That is an incarceration rate of 615 inmates for every 100,000 U.S. residents.

That rate of imprisonment put the nation second only to Russia, which had a rate of 690 inmates per 100,000 residents in 1995, the last available figure. The two countries imprison a far higher proportion of their citizens than any other country in the world.

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