State and Federal Prisoners:

Profiles of Inmate Characteristics in 1991 and 1997

GGD-00-117: Published: May 24, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the profiles of felons incarcerated in federal and state correctional facilities, focusing on: (1) the overall profiles for state and federal prison inmates in 1997; and (2) acomparison of 1991 and 1997 profiles to determine whether there were any changes in the overall profiles for state and federal inmates.

GAO noted that: (1) in 1997, the majority of inmates in state and in federal prisons were male, minority, and unmarried; (2) most inmates had either a high school degree or its equivalent; (3) in 1997, at least two-thirds of both federal and state inmates reported being employed in the month before arrest (4) comparing 1991 and 1997, primary changes in personal demographics involved the age of inmates in state prisons and racial compositions; (5) in 1997, 44 percent of state inmates and 54 percent of federal inmates reported growing up in homes with both parents present; (6) although in 1997, the majority of inmates reported no family history of drug or alcohol abuse, 31 percent of the state inmates and 20 percent of the federal inmates reported that they had lived with parents who abused drugs or alcohol; (7) while most inmates in 1997 reported that they had experienced no sexual or physical abuse as children, differences between men and women were dramatic; (8) in state prisons in 1997, 47 percent of the inmates reported that they had been sentenced for violent crimes, 22 percent for property crimes and 20 percent for drug crimes, compared to 15 percent of federal inmates who reported that they had been sentenced for violent crimes, 6 percent for property crimes, and 62 percent for drug crimes; (9) in both federal and state prisons in 1997, minority inmates were more likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes; (10) 75 percent of state inmates and 60 percent of federal inmates in 1997 reported that they had served prior sentences; (11) 46 percent of state inmates and 27 percent of federal inmates in 1997 reported that they were on probation or parole at the time of their most recent arrest; (12) the percentage of federal inmates who reported no prior sentences decreased by almost 10-percentage points from 1991 to in 1997, while the percentage of inmates who reported 3 or more prior sentences increased by 8 percentage points; and (13) in 1997, 56 percent of inmates and 46 percent federal inmates reported they had participated in alcohol/drug treatment programs.

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