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18 Surprising Facts About the Department of Corrections

The prison population of the United States is over two million people, the highest of any country in the world, and larger than the gulag system at the height of the Soviet Union. Of these inmates, around 200,000 are held in federal prison, either before or after trial. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has a fascinating history, often quite different than the local and state facilities it augments, and some of it is quite shocking.

True to the nature of the United States, federal crimes were rare until the late 19th century. Most justice was dispensed at the town or county level, and US Marshals carried out arrests for crimes that went across states. Since it was formed in 1931, up until 1980, BOP inmates were a small group. But mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, handed down by "tough on crime" judges and prosecutors, made this number skyrocket. With it has come a host of problems and inequities.

Here are some startling facts about the federal prison population and the Bureau of Prisons that house it.