While Alaska continues to have a rate of incarceration lower than the national rate, the state's correctional population grew much more than that of the country as a whole in 2001, and Alaska had one of the highest percentages among the states of prisoners held in private facilities.
Overall, the nation's prison population grew 1.1 percent in 2001, less than the average annual growth of 3.8 percent since the end of 1995. Alaska, however, experienced an 8.9 percent increase in its prison population.
According to figures released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the total number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of federal or state adult correctional authorities was 1,406,031 at the end of 2001. During the year the states added 3,193 prisoners and the federal prison system added 11,577 prisoners.
Overall, the United States incarcerated 2,100,146 persons at the end of 2001. This total represents persons held in:
- federal and state prisons (1,324,465, which excludes state and federal prisoners in local jails);
- territorial prisons (15,852);
- local jails (631,240);
- facilities operated by or exclusively for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (8.761);
- military facilities (2,436);
- jails in Indian country (1,912);
- juvenile facilities (108,965 as of October 1999).
The national rate of incarceration in prison at the end of 2001 was 470 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents—up from 411 in 1995. About one in every 112 men and one in every 1,724 women were sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal authorities. The Alaska rate of incarceration was 300 sentenced inmates per 100,000.
At the end of 2001, 32 states, the federal system and the District of Columbi reported a total of almost 92,000 prisoners held in private facilities. The federal system had placed over 19,000 inmates in privately-owned prisons. Among the states, Texas had the most inmates in private facilities—16,000—followed by Oklahoma with more than 6,600. Five states—New Mexico (44%), Montana (33%), Alaska (32%), Oklahoma (29%), and Wyoming (28%)—had at least 25 percent of their prison populations in private facilities.
The Alaska Department of Corrections reports that at the beginning of January 2002, 777 Alaska prisoners were incarcerated in the Arizona Detention Center—in effect making this facility the largest Alaska prison (Table 2).
Demographics of Alaska Prisons
In Alaska the prison population, as in the nation as a whole, is predominately male. Ninety-two percent of the incarcerated population at the beginning of 2002 was male.
Overall, both blacks and Alaska Natives/American Indians are incarcerated at levels very disproportionate to their percentages in the general population. The number of Alaska Natives and American Indians incarcerated in secure facilities at the beginning of the year was 1,420— 37.2 percent of the total prison population. The number of African Americans incarcerated was 446, 11.7 percent of the prison population. According to Alaska Department of Labor figures, Alaska Natives comprise close to 17 percent of the general population and African Americans, 4 percent.
As discussed above, the privately owned facility in Florence, Arizona, serves as Alaska's biggest prison, with 777 inmates—all male. The racial and ethnic mixture among the inmates held there parallels that in the prison population as a whole: nearly 44 percent are white; close to 38 percent are Alaska Natives; 13 percent are black; 3 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent, Asian. The in-state facility with the largest number of inmates—Spring Creek—reflects a similar ethnic and racial mix.
There are significantly fewer women incarcerated—301 in jails or prisons in Alaska, only 8 percent of the total prison population. Most of these women—208—are serving their sentences at Hiland Mountain. Alaska Native and African-American women are also incarcerated at a level disproportionate to their percentage in the population as a whole—32 percent and 14 percent, respectively, of the total female prison population.
The Department of Corrections budget has grown from just under $97 million in FY 1990 to close to $181 million authorized in FY 2003—an increase of 87 percent. This was one of the largest budget increases among the state justice agencies during that period, surpassed only by that of the Division of Juvenile Justice. (See Table 3. The budget of the Department of Education is included in the table for comparison purposes.) The DOC budget increase parallels the growth in the correctional population since 1990—an increase of 94 percent, from 2,362 at the end of 1990 to 4,587 at the beginning of 2002.
Some of the data in this article was drawn from the Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin "Prisoners in 2001," NCJ 195189.