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WASHINGTON — Wyoming's prison population is still growing but at a slower rate than in the past few years, a new Justice Department report shows.

Wyoming had the ninth-highest percentage increase in prison inmates of all states from mid-2004 to mid-2005, the study shows.

A total of 1,923 prisoners were under the state's jurisdiction on June 30, 2004. That number rose to 2,026 one year later, according to a recent Justice Department report.

The 5.4 percent increase shows a slower growth rate than in previous years. From mid-2003 to mid-2004, Wyoming's prison population increased 6.3 percent.

And the number of Wyoming inmates grew by 7.8 percent between Dec. 31, 2002, and the end of 2003. That made it the fourth-fastest growing in the nation at that time, which state officials attributed to growth in property and drug crimes, particularly methamphetamine.

The state spent millions to expand its correctional facilities to accommodate the growing numbers.

In the most recent data, Montana ranked highest of all states at 7.9 percent growth, followed closely by South Dakota at 7.8 percent. Twelve states had a decline in their prison population, led by Vermont, Idaho and New York.

Florida grew the most in sheer numbers, adding 2,812 inmates for a total jurisdiction over 87,545 federal or state prisoners.

Nationwide, nearly 2.2 million people were incarcerated in the U.S. in mid-2005, with two-thirds of those in the state and federal system and the other third in local jails. The nation's prison and jail population grew 2.6 percent, or about 1,085 new inmates every week of the year.

At mid-year 2005, one in every 136 U.S. residents was in prison or jail.

Since 1995, the nation's prison and jail population has risen by more than 600,000 inmates. At mid-year 2005, one in every 136 U.S. residents was in prison or jail.

Women make up an increasing proportion of the nation's jail inmates, reaching 12.7 percent of the population last year compared with 10.2 percent in 1995.

On June 30, 2005, an estimated 12 percent of black males, 3.7 percent of Hispanic males and 1.7 percent of white males in their late 20s were in prison or jail.

Louisiana and Georgia led the nation in percentage of their state residents incarcerated, with more than 1 percent of their residents in prison or jail. Wyoming had nearly 0.7 percent.

Maine and Minnesota had the lowest rates of incarceration, with 0.3 percent or less of their state residents incarcerated.

Wyoming admitted 769 sentenced prisoners in 2004, a 20.5 percent increase over 2000. The state released 658 sentenced prisoners in 2004, or 5.6 percent less than the 697 released in 2000.

The report also showed that 777 prisoners, or 38.4 percent of all inmates in Wyoming, were held in private facilities as of June 30, 2005.

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