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Rise in Drug Inmates Boosted 1992 U.S. Prison Population to New High


June 1993

People convicted of drug crimes helped the nation's state and federal prison population hit a record high of 883,593 at the end of 1992, the Justice Department reported May 9 (AP, "Nation's Prison Population Rises 7.2%: Drug Convictions Boosted Number Of Inmates To New High In 1992," Washington Post, 5/10/93, A5).

The combined growth in the number of federal and state prisoners was 7.2 percent. The number of federal prisoners jumped 12.1 percent, to 80,259. The number of state prisoners grew by 6.8 percent, to 803,334. The data is from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In 1990, the last year for which the agency had data, approximately one-third of all those imprisoned were drug offenders, compared to only 11.5 percent in 1977. Data show that 1990 was the first year the number of people imprisoned for drug crimes exceed those imprisoned for property crimes. About 103,800 people went to prison for drug offenses in 1990, compared to 102,400 for property crimes and 87,200 for violent crimes. Although a complete breakdown of data by offense category was not yet available for 1992, acting Bureau of Justice Statistics Director Lawrence Greenfeld said "drug offenders were a major source for the increased number of prisoners."