Prison Crowding:

Issues Facing the Nation's Prison Systems

GGD-90-1BR: Published: Nov 2, 1989. Publicly Released: Dec 4, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed crowding and expansion at federal and other prison systems.

GAO found that: (1) from October 1980 to May 1989, the federal prison population grew from 24,162 to 48,017 inmates, while the Bureau of Prisons increased its housing capacity from 24,094 beds to 30,860 and went from less than 1 percent to about 56 percent over capacity; (2) the average cost of operating federal prisons was about $15,270 per inmate during fiscal year 1988; (3) the Bureau projected that the federal prison population will grow to 83,500 prisoners by 1995 and increase significantly after 1995; (4) the Bureau planned to increase federal prison capacity to about 64,400 by 1995 at a cost of $1.8 billion and operate at 30 percent over capacity; (5) the federal government must address such issues as the types and sizes of needed prisons, the potential for privatizing prisons, the feasibility of alternatives to traditional incarceration, and problems dealing with special inmate groups, such as substance abusers and those with AIDS; and (6) state and District of Columbia prison populations exceeded their lowest reported capacity by 23 percent at the end of 1988.

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