The U.S. prison population continued a multiyear decline in 2018, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report published in late April 2020.
Overall, there was a 1.6% decrease in the total prison population in 2018, falling from nearly 1.49 million inmates to nearly 1.47 million. During the same period, there was a 2.4% decline in the imprisonment rate (incarcerated persons per 100,000 in population) to 431 persons.
By comparison, from 2016-17, the prison population declined 1.2% and the imprisonment rate fell 2.1% to 440 persons per 100,000, according to a BJS report published in April 2019.
There were nearly 1.3 million people housed in state prisons and nearly 180,000 in federal prisons in 2018, with more than 1.35 million male inmates and more than 110,000 female inmates.
Texas (more than 162,000), California (more than 131,000) and Florida (more than 98,000) had the highest total prison populations, but none of these states had the highest imprisonment rates.
“Louisiana had the highest rate (695 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 state residents), followed by Oklahoma (693 per 100,000), Mississippi (626 per 100,000), Arkansas (589 per 100,000), and Arizona (559 per 100,000),” the report said.
During the past decade, the imprisonment rate declined by 15% overall, with the imprisonment rate for blacks dropping by 28%, followed by Hispanics (21%) and whites (13%).
Yet racial disparities remain noticeable, with BJS reporting “the imprisonment rate of black males in 2018 was 5.8 times that of white males, while the imprisonment rate of black females was 1.8 times the rate of white females.”
Overall, there were more than 465,000 black (a 2.2% decrease from 2017), more than 430,000 white (1.4% decrease) and more than 330,000 Hispanic (1.9% decrease) inmates in U.S. prisons in 2018.
The remainder, more than 188,000 inmates, includes Asians, native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, American Indians, Alaska Natives and persons of two or more races.
According to the latest U.S. Census Department data from July 2018, 76.5% of the U.S. population is white, 18.3% Hispanic and 13.4% black.
In 2018, 32.9% of U.S. prison inmates were black, compared to 30.4% of white inmates and 23.3% of Hispanic inmates.