How Often Is a New Prison Built in the United States?

Starting in the 1970s, US lawmakers began toughening up on felonies in an attempt to reduce drug-related and violent offenses. They imposed mandatory minimum sentences, banned early releases, and created new penalties for many crimes. This crackdown on crime resulted in an increase in the number of imprisoned offenders and a need for facilities in which to house them. According to statistics from 1990 to 2005, a new state or federal correctional facility was built in the United States once every 10 days, amounting to around 544 new prisons over 15 years.

More about US prisons:

  • Sixty percent of the growth in the number prisoners from 1990 to 2009 was attributed to violent offenders.
  • Twenty-five percent of the total world prison population is comprised of US prisoners, even though the US makes up just 5% of the total global population. In 2013, there were about 2.2 million adults in local, state, or federal custody in the United States.
  • There are 770,000 people who work for US prisons in some capacity (such as parole officers, prison guards, construction, health care, and more) - almost as many as work in the automobile manufacturing industry.
More Info: PolitiFact

Discussion Comments


It would be interesting to see a demographic breakout by gender, race and age of those put in prison during this time.


More income for publicly owned prisons as well. Plus more power to the unions who "represent" the guards.

Here in CA the public employee unions have gotten out of hand and have way to much pull in Sac.


More inmates mean more profit for privately owned prisons.

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