Mar 13, 2024 - News

Texas prisons' population growth

Change in prison populations, 2021 to 2022
Data: Bureau of Justice Statistics; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Texas' prison population grew 4.4% between 2021 and 2022.

  • Meanwhile, it fell nearly 20% between the peak year of 2010 and 2022.

Why it matters: Prison numbers are an indicator of how our society approaches criminal justice.

  • Plus, in Texas, where prisons are generally in rural areas and incarcerated people are often from urban ones, the prison population has important implications for Census counting and political clout.
Data: Bureau of Justice Statistics; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Data: Bureau of Justice Statistics; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

By the numbers: 139,631 people were in state or federal prisons in Texas in 2022, per the DOJ's data, compared to 173,649 in the peak year of 2010.

The big picture: The U.S. prison population rose 2.1% between 2021 and 2022, marking "the first increase in the combined state and federal prison population in almost a decade," a recent DOJ report found.

Of note: As of Dec. 31, 2022, about 32% of the nationwide prison population was Black — more than double Black Americans' 13.6% share of the overall U.S. population.

Reality check: The U.S. prison population remains extremely high compared to the years before the Nixon-era "war on drugs" and "tough on crime" politics took hold.

What they're saying: "It is disappointing that we're seeing this increase in populations around the country because we have proven that we can have reductions and be safe," David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, told NPR.

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