For the first time since 1972, state prison populations decreased according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 2009, state prison populations fell by 2,941 inmates (0.2 percent). Twenty-four states experienced decreases in their prison populations and 26 had increases.
States experiencing the most significant declines in prisoners included Michigan (down 3,260), California (down 2,395), New York (down 1,660), Mississippi (down 1,272), Texas (down 1,257), and Maryland (down 1,069).
States reporting the largest increases included: Pennsylvania (up 2,214), Florida (up 1,527), Louisiana (up 1,399), Alabama (up 1,282) and Arizona (up 1,038).
In contrast, the federal prison population increased by 6,838 (or 3.4 percent) last year. The increase in federal prisoners was slightly less than the average annual growth of 4.1 percent in the federal prison population that occurred from 2000 through 2008.
Nationwide, over 1.6 million people were incarcerated in state and federal prisons at the end of 2009. When inmates from local jails are included, the number exceeds 2.2 million inmates.
The report also found that black males are incarcerated at a rate of 4,749 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. This rate is six times higher than that of white males and 2.6 times higher than Hispanic males.
Black females were twice as likely as Hispanic females to be incarcerated and 3.6 times more likely than white females to be in prison.
Non-U.S. citizens accounted for 4.1 percent (94,498 inmates) of the inmates held in custody in state or federal prisons. An additional 2,778 inmates held in state custody were under age 18.