U.S. prison population exceeds one million - HISTORY
Year
1994
Month Day
October 27

U.S. prison population exceeds one million

The U.S. Justice Department announces that the U.S. prison population has topped one million for the first time in American history. The figure—1,012,851 men and women were in state and federal prisons—did not even include local prisons, where an estimated 500,000 prisoners were held, usually for short periods. The recent increase, due to tougher sentencing laws, made the United States second only to Russia in the world for incarceration rates.

Of the characteristics of the prison population, the vast majority of prisoners were male and behind bars on drug-related convictions, while there was an extremely disproportional number of African Americans behind bars compared with their distribution in American society as a whole—more than half the nation’s prisoners were African American, while African Americans made up only 13 percent of the overall U.S. population. This racial imbalance was also present in the 2,890 prisoners under sentence of death in 1994—42 percent of the prisoners on death row were African American.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The United States and Soviet Union step back from brink of nuclear war

Complicated and tension-filled negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union finally result in a plan to end the two-week-old Cuban Missile Crisis. A frightening period in which nuclear holocaust seemed imminent began to come to an end.  Since President John F. ...read more

Quakers executed for religious beliefs

William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, two Quakers who came from England in 1656 to escape religious persecution, are executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their religious beliefs. The two had violated a law passed by the Massachusetts General Court the year before, ...read more

New York City subway opens

At 2:35 on the afternoon of October 27, 1904, New York City Mayor George McClellan takes the controls on the inaugural run of the city’s innovative new rapid transit system: the subway. While London boasts the world’s oldest underground train network (opened in 1863) and Boston ...read more

Red Sox win first championship since 1918

On October 27, 2004, the Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918, finally vanquishing the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” that had plagued them for 86 years. “This is for anyone who has ever rooted for the Red Sox,” the team’s GM told reporters after ...read more

Theodore Roosevelt is born

On October 27, 1858, future President Theodore Roosevelt is born in New York City to a wealthy family. Roosevelt was home-schooled and then attended Harvard University, graduating in 1880. He served in the New York state legislature from 1881 to 1884. In 1880, Roosevelt married ...read more

Joseph Glidden applies for a patent on his barbed wire design

On October 27, 1873, a De Kalb, Illinois, farmer named Joseph Glidden submits an application to the U.S. Patent Office for his clever new design for a fencing wire with sharp barbs, an invention that will forever change the face of the American West. Glidden’s was by no means the ...read more

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber release “Jesus Christ Superstar” concept album

From the late 1950s to the mid 1960s, it was common for original cast recordings of successful Broadway musicals to find their way up near the top of the pop album charts. Hit shows like West Side Story, The Sound of Music and Funny Girl, among several others, all spun off ...read more

Poet Sylvia Plath is born

On October 27, 1932, poet Sylvia Plath is born in Boston. Her father, a German immigrant, was a professor of biology and a leading expert on bumblebees. An autocrat at home, he insisted his wife give up teaching to raise their two children. He died at home after a lingering ...read more

Mafia boss John Gotti is born

John Joseph Gotti, Jr., the future head of the Gambino crime family and a man later nicknamed “the Dapper Don” due to his polished appearance and expensive suits, is born in the Bronx, New York. Gotti, the grandson of Italian immigrants, was raised in a poor family with 13 ...read more

Chick-fil-A founder takes last Ford Taurus

On October 27, 2006, the last Ford Taurus rolls off the assembly line in Hapeville, Georgia. The keys to the silver car went to 85-year-old Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food franchise, who took it straight to his company’s headquarters in Atlanta and added it ...read more