Prison Population Growth Rate Slows

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WASHINGTON?The number of people in prison grew last year at the slowest rate in three decades, the Justice Department reported Wednesday.

The total population in all prisons and jails rose a bit more than 1 percent, nearing 2 million, according to the annual report. As of June 30, 2001, one of every 145 U.S. residents was behind bars.

Tougher anti-crime policies and longer sentences have caused the decades-long increase in the prison population. Most of the growth between 2000 and 2001 came in federal facilities.

Overall, there were 1,965,495 people in custody in federal and state prisons and local jails in June 2001, up 1.6 percent from the previous year.

The population in U.S. and state prisons rose 1.1 percent, the slowest annual growth since 1972.

Prisons usually hold convicted criminals sentenced to terms longer than one year. Jails generally keep inmates awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences.