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.