Feb 26, 2024 - News

Florida's prison population has grown since pandemic

Data: Bureau of Justice Statistics; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Data: Bureau of Justice Statistics; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

A sharp decline in Florida's prison population early in the COVID-19 pandemic didn't last long, as new data shows it grew 5.3% between 2021 and 2022.

  • However, the number of people in prisons in 2022 remained 18.8% below the peak year of 2010.

By the numbers: 84,678 people were in state or federal prisons in Florida in 2022, per the Justice Department's data, compared to 104,306 in 2010, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report from the latest DOJ data.

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," the DOJ report found.

How it works: The data is based on the National Prisoner Statistics program, an annual DOJ census of nationwide prison populations, capacity and more.

Between the lines: It's especially notable that the nationwide prison population increased in the late pandemic era, given that many prisons suffered significant — and often deadly — COVID-19 outbreaks.

  • Some nonviolent offenders were moved to home confinement during the height of the pandemic in an effort to curb viral spread in prisons, which affected prisoners, prison staffers and surrounding communities.

What they're saying: "Despite rhetoric to the contrary, there's a lot of research that shows those kinds of health releases did not have any real negative impact on public safety," David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, an advocacy group, told NPR.

  • "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."
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