The U.S. imprisonment rate declined for the 11th straight year, reaching 1995 levels, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report published Oct. 22.
In 2019, there were 419 prisoners per 100,000 in population, down from 432 per 100,000 in 2018 – a 3% decrease. The high was 506 prisoners per 100,000 in 2007 and 2008.
“The imprisonment rate – the portion of U.S. residents who are in prison – is based on prisoners sentenced to more than one year,” the report explained.
There were 17 states with an imprisonment rate above the national average, with the highest rates in Louisiana (680 per 100,000 state residents), Oklahoma (639), Mississippi (636), Arkansas (586) and Arizona (558).
Overall, more than 1.43 million people were housed in U.S. prisons in 2019, a 33,580-person (2%) decline from 2018 and a 184,682-person (11%) drop from 2009. This is the lowest level since 2002 when more than 1.44 million people were held in U.S. prisons.
Of this total, 175,116 inmates were in federal prisons and more than 1.25 million in state prisons.
Texas (158,429) and California (122,687) remained the states with the highest prison populations, followed by Florida (96,009), Georgia (54,816) and Ohio (50,338).
While prisoners from all races have seen a decline in the past decade, Black citizens continue to make up a disproportionate number of inmates.
In 2019, there were 452,800 Black inmates (down 2.7% from 2018), 422,800 white (down 1.8%) and 320,700 Hispanic (down 2.9%) in U.S. prisons.
“At year-end 2019, there were 1,096 Black prisoners per 100,000 Black residents, 525 Hispanic prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic residents, and 214 white prisoners per 100,000 white residents in the United States,” the report said.
This is a 29% decline in the imprisonment rate for Black citizens since 2009, and it is the lowest rate since 1989. By comparison, the imprisonment rate for Hispanics dropped 24% and for whites dropped 12% from 2009 to 2019.
Current U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 76.3% of the total population is white, 18.5% Hispanic or Latino and 13.4% Black or African American.