updated 7/26/2004 12:16:04 PM ET 2004-07-26T16:16:04

A record 6.9 million adults were incarcerated or on probation or parole last year, nearly 131,000 more than in 2002, according to a Justice Department study.

Put another way, about 3.2 percent of the adult U.S. population, or 1 in 32 adults, were incarcerated or on probation or parole at the end of last year.

A record 4.8 million adults were on probation or parole in 2003, about 73,000 more than the year before. About 70 percent of adults involved in federal, state or local corrections systems fall into this category. The states of California and Texas together accounted for about 1 million.

The number of adults on parole after serving a prison sentence rose by 3.1 percent from 2002 to 2003, to more than 774,500 people. That compares with an average annual rise of about 1.7 percent since 1995 for those on parole, a figure that has been increasing at a much slower rate than those in jails (4 percent a year), in prison (3.4 percent) and on probation (2.9 percent).

Since 1995, states around the country have increased the use of mandatory parole after prison release and cut down on use of discretionary releases overseen by parole boards, the report says.

The report, released Sunday, focused most on the characteristics of those on probation or parole. Its findings include:

  • Almost half of all probationers were convicted of a felony, with 25 percent convicted of a drug violation.
  • Washington state had the highest number of people on probation per 100,000 population, at 3,767. New Hampshire had the lowest rate at 426.
  • Of the 2.2 million people discharged from probation in 2003, three out of five met the conditions of their supervision. Another 16 percent were jailed because of a rule violation or a new crime, with 4 percent becoming fugitives.
  • About 95 percent of those on parole had been convicted of a felony.
  • Of the 470,500 parolees discharged from supervision last year, 38 percent went back to jail for a new crime or a rule violation, with 9 percent becoming fugitives.

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