The U.S. prison population declined in 2012 due, in part, to the lowest number of admissions since 1999.

The December 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report on U.S. prisons for 1991 through 2012 explained the overall decline by noting that (1) releases had exceeded admissions for four years in a row and (2) total admissions had declined for six years in a row.

“Changes over time in the total year-end prison population are influenced by changes in the number of state prisoners who make up 87 percent of the total prison population,” the report noted.

This trend held in 2012, as reduction of state prisoners accounted for 92 percent of the decline while total admissions were the lowest since 1997.

Despite the overall decline, the BJS found that “18 states and the [Federal Bureau of Prisons] were operating prison systems above 100 percent of their maximum reported facility capacity.”

It also noted that 2012 was the lowest decrease in prison population since 2009.

A large portion of the prison population was concentrated in four states and federal prisons.

“The federal prison system had the largest sentenced prison population (196,600 prisoners) of any jurisdiction in 2012,” the report noted, “followed by Texas (157,900 inmates), California (134,200 inmates), Florida (101,900 inmates) and New York (54,100 inmates),” the report revealed.

This represents 43 percent of the total U.S. prison population, and the four states “accounted for 30 percent of the sentenced state prison population in 2012.”

Overall figures for 2012 were as follows:

â— 1,570,397 in custody

That breaks down to:

â— 1,352,582 in custody of state prisons

â— 217,815 in custody of federal prisons

These figures do not include persons on supervised probation or parole, which number several million.

The BJS press release is available here, and the full report can be accessed here.

Editor’s note: EthicsDaily’s forthcoming documentary, “Through the Door,” focuses on the faith community’s engagement with prisons. More information can be found here.

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