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Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2012
92 pages
This study determined the growth in the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP's) inmate population during the fiscal years of 2006 through 2011 as well as projections for inmate population and prison capacity; the effects of this inmate population growth and BOP actions to address these effects; and actions selected States have taken in order to reduce their prison populations, as well as the extent to which BOP has implemented similar initiatives.
The study found that the BOP's 9.5-percent inmate population increase from fiscal years 2006-2011 exceeded the 7-percent increase in its rated prison capacity. BOP's 2020 long-range capacity plan projects continued growth in the Federal prison population from fiscal years 2012 through 2020, with systemwide crowding exceeding 45 percent through 2018. According to BOP, this growth in the Federal inmate population has negatively affected inmates, staff, and infrastructure. Negative effects include the use of double and triple bunking, waiting lists for education and drug treatment programs, limited meaningful work opportunities, and increased inmate-to-staff ratios. Taken together, these effects have increased inmate misconduct. The five States reviewed in this study have taken more actions than BOP to reduce their prison populations, mainly because these States have legislative authority that BOP does not have; for example, BOP does not have the authority to shorten an inmate's sentence or transfer inmates to local prisons. Efforts should be taken to reduce the inmate population by reforming sentencing laws, increasing capacity by constructing new prisons, or some combination of these measures. Researchers visited five Federal prisons chosen on the basis of geographic dispersion and varying security levels. The results from these sites cannot be generalized, but they do provide information on the effects of a growing prison population. 17 tables, 6 figures, and appended methodology, BOP's population growth, and the effects of a growing inmate population