Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1994

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!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

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

Theodore Roosevelt is born

On this day in 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

Sylvia Plath is born

On this day, 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 illness that ...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