(BOP) - During fiscal year 2014, for the first time in 34 years, the federal inmate population declined; on September 30, 2014, there were 5,149 fewer inmates than there were on October 1, 2013. This decline in population is a welcome change to the long term trend dating back to 1980; the Bureau of Prisons inmate population increased by nearly 750% between 1980 and 2014, from 25,640 to 213,901. In some years the population increased by more than 11,000 inmates, the equivalent of at least 7 prisons.
Last year’s reduction in the inmate population reduced crowding in federal prisons to 30%, the lowest it has been since 1998. Despite the overall reduction, crowding remains a concern at medium and high security institutions that are operating at 39% and 52% above rated capacity, respectively.
Reductions in the population also help address a second critical concern for the agency: the number of staff available to supervise and provide evidence-based programs and services to inmates. As the population goes down, the ratio of inmates to staff members also goes down, thereby increasing the safety of staff, inmates, and the general public.