Trends in State Prison Populations

State prison populations experienced a slight decline between 2008 and 2009, while the federal population increased 3.4 percent.  However, state prison populations have risen significantly - up by 13 percent - since 2000.  

  Download the briefs and tables in PDF:  Midwest, East, South, West

See the other Capitol Research policy briefs in this series: The Book of the States 2011: Regional Analysis

National Analysis:

  • State prison populations experienced a slight 0.2 percent decline between 2008 and 2009, while the federal population increased 3.4 percent. That increase drove the country’s combined state-federal prison population up 0.2 percent in 2009 from its 2008 level.
  • State prisoners per 100,000 residents held fairly steady given the small absolute decline in state prison populations year-over-year. Prisoners per 100,000 residents fell from about 464 in 2008 to about 459 in 2009.
  • Nationally, 2009 state prison populations are up about 13 percent from 2000. Before falling in 2009, state prison counts grew an average of 1.5 percent annually between 2000 and 2008.

Regional Analysis:

  • CSG’s Midwestern region tied the East for the largest regional percentage drop in state prison population between 2008 and 2009—a 1.3 percent decline.
  • Michigan experienced the second largest year-over-year percentage drop in state prison population nationwide—6.7 percent. Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin also experienced declines.
  • Minnesota housed the second smallest number of prisoners per 100,000 residents in the nation in 2009.

  • CSG’s Eastern region tied the Midwest for the largest regional drop in state prison population between 2008 and 2009—a 1.3 percent decline.
  • Rhode Island experienced the largest year-over-year percentage decline in state prison population in the nation—9.2 percent.
  • Maine housed fewer prisoners per 100,000 residents than any other state in 2009. Two more Eastern states placed in the top five on this metric—Massachusetts (second) and New Hampshire (fourth).

  • The Southern regional prison population increased 1.9 percent between 2008 and 2009. Year-over-year, populations were up in nine states, while six states experienced declines.
  • Mississippi experienced the third largest percentage drop in state prison population in the nation between 2008 and 2009—5.6 percent.
  • CSG South housed more prisoners per 100,000 residents than any other region in 2009.

  • From 2008 to 2009, the Western region’s state prison population fell 0.3 percent, driven by a 1.4 percent decline in California. Without California, the regional population increased almost 1 percent.
  • State prison populations were up in six states. Alaska experienced the largest year-over-year percentage increase in the nation—5.4 percent.
  • Alaska housed more prisoners per 100,000 residents in 2009 than any state except Louisiana.
Prisons_East.pdf394.57 KB
Prisons_Midwest.pdf387.7 KB
Prisons_South.pdf407.87 KB
Prisons_West.pdf405.13 KB