Under Trump, The Federal Prison Population Continued Its Recent Decline

The federal prison population, which declined for the first time in decades under President Barack Obama, fell further during the administration of President Donald Trump.

The number of federal prisoners sentenced to more than a year behind bars decreased by 5% (or 7,607 inmates) between 2017, Trump’s first year in office, and the end of 2019, the most recent year for which final data is available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Preliminary figures for 2020 show that the decline continued – and even accelerated – during Trump’s last full year in office, meaning that the overall reduction in inmates during his tenure will likely exceed 5% once final data is available. Part of the decrease in prisoners in 2020 may have been attributable to policy changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.