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More Texans Behind Bars

Nearly 165,000 of our friends and neighbors are guests of the Lone Star State

By Jordan Smith, Fri., June 4, 2004

We're No. 2! For the second year in a row, the Texas prison system ranks second in the nation in total prison population – lagging slightly behind the entire federal prison system – according to an annual report on prison and jail populations released May 27 by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. With 164,222 inmates, the Lone Star State lags behind the federal system by a mere 6,000 inmates.

In all, from July 2002 through June 2003, the nation's total prison population increased by more than 40,000 inmates, the largest single-year increase in four years, the BJS reports. Among the report's more depressing statistics: The BJS reports that an estimated 12% of black males, 3.7% of Hispanic males, and 1.6% of white males in their 20s were in prison or jail. At the end of June 2003, there were nearly 2.1 million people behind bars nationwide; and at "midyear" (that is, Dec. 31, 2003) the BJS reports, "one out of every 140 U.S. residents was incarcerated."

The report also notes that the number of privately owned prison facilities increased; such facilities now house a total of 94,361 inmates. Nearly 17,000 of those are in Texas, again second only to the federal government, which houses just over 21,000 inmates in private prisons.

Also last week, the FBI released its preliminary crime statistics for 2003, in the annual Uniform Crime Report. According to the preliminary UCR, the nation experienced a 3.2% drop in violent crime (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) – led by an overall decrease in aggravated assault – but the total number of murders actually increased by 1.3%. Total property crime (burglary, larceny/theft, car theft) was down slightly (0.1%), although car thefts increased by 1.4%.

In general, Austin crime stats ran counter to these trends. For 2003, Austin reported to the FBI an 8% increase in murders and a 6.6% increase in robberies, but a nearly 12% drop in the number of forcible rapes reported to police, and a nearly 12% decrease in auto theft. Austin police are expected to release their preliminary six-month statistics for 2004 within the month. (To view the FBI UCR, go to www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm. For the BJS prison report, see www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/pjim03.htm .)

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