prisonbars-749138.jpgNew figures released last week from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveal that U.S prison population continues its record rise. According to the BJS' statistics report, during 2007 the prison population increased more rapidly than the U.S. population.

By the end of 2007, federal and state prisons and local jails held just under 2.3 million inmates, an increase of 1.5% during the year. Four Southern states led the way with the largest increase in prisoners in 2007 - Kentucky, Mississippi, Florida and West Virginia - and overall the South saw the highest increase in all the regions.

From the Sentencing Project:
The United States remains the world's leader in the number of persons in its prisons and jails. The new rate of incarceration - 756 persons per 100,000 U.S. residents - is 5 to 8 times that of other industrialized nations. In addition, 7.3 million Americans, or 1 in every 31 adults, were being held in prison or jail, or under correctional supervision.

Commenting on the increase, Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, stated, "At a time of economic crisis lawmakers should rethink costly policies, like prison expansion, that divert resources from education, health care and child services."
Since 1980, the country's prison population has quadrupled, with the South accounting for nearly half of that increase. Indeed the South continues to lead in U.S. prison population growth, and the rising costs of incarceration are taking a significant toll on state budgets at a time when the nation and region are experiencing economic turmoil.

Facing South reported in June that Kentucky, which has experienced the nation's largest prison population increase, suffered with state budget woes hampered by the amount of money the state spent on prisons.

This problem is also a national trend. The Washington Post reported last June that states were spending an estimated cost of $45 billion to house and monitor offenders as they go in and out of jails and prisons.