WASHINGTON -- The number of adults behind bars, on parole or on probation reached a record 6.47 million in 2000 -- or one in 32 American adults, the government reported Sunday.
On the positive side, the percentage increase from 1999 was half the average annual rate since 1990.
Jails and prisons held 30 percent of the adults in the corrections system, or 1,933,503. People on probation accounted for 59 percent of the total, or 3,839,532. An additional 725,527 adults were on parole, a period of supervision following release from prison.
Over the past two decades, the number of adults in the corrections system has tripled, so they now make up 3.1 percent of the country's adult population, compared with 1 percent in 1980, said Allen J. Beck, a chief researcher with the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
"It's just overwhelming," said Kara Gotsch, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, which advocates alternatives to incarceration. "It just shows that we need to put much more into prevention."
During the 1990s, the corrections population increased 49 percent. By the end of last year, there were 2.1 million more adults in the system than there were in 1990.
The rate of growth was 2 percent between 1999 and 2000, compared with an average of 4 percent in the 1990s. Beck attributed the slowing growth to the cumulative effect of a drop in crime rates that began in the 1990s.
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