NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

With More Prisoners, More Parolees And More Recidivism

August 16, 1999

Ex-convicts are being sent back to prison in record numbers, according to a report from the Department of Justice. Most are returning because of parole violations -- while others are going back for convictions on new crimes.

  • The number of parole violators was up more than 39 percent from 1990 to 1997, to 186,659 -- due to more aggressive parole officers, tougher parole requirements and the simple fact that the prison population has swollen and more inmates are being paroled.
  • The total prison population grew 4.8 percent last year -- the slowest rate of growth since 1979.
  • About 57 percent of the prison population is under age 35, down from about 66 percent in 1990 -- so the proportion of older prisoners has jumped significantly this decade.
  • The average state inmate served 27 months in 1997, up from 22 months in 1990.

States grant parole to some inmates in return for making restitution to victims, taking drug tests and meeting other requirements. But there is no parole in the federal prison system.

There are about 18,000 parole officers on duty nationwide and about 691,000 former prisoners were on parole in 1997, the report revealed.

Source: Richard Willing, "More Parolees Than Ever Go Back to Prison," USA Today, August 16, 1999.


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