A New Prison Built Every Ten Days

When senator Cory Booker spoke out on mass incarceration he cited the stat that a new prison is built every ten days. This obviously sounds far fetched, so Politifact decided to see if it was real. What they found will shock you:

With criminal justice reform in the national spotlight, first-term Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., commented on the growth of the prison system in recent years.

“We built a new prison every 10 days between 1990 and 2005 to keep up with our mass incarceration explosion of nonviolent offenders,” Booker said in a post to his Instagram account on July 27, 2015. Before joining the Senate, Booker served as mayor of Newark.

Is Booker’s claim correct?  We decided to check.


We’ll start by evaluating the first part of Booker’s claim about a new prison being built on a near weekly basis between 1990 and 2005.

Booker’s communications director, Jeff Giertz, pointed to an almost identical quote in Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, published in 2014. Stevenson is a law professor at New York University School of Law and executive director of a nonprofit group in Montgomery, Ala., called the Equal Justice Initiative.

“Between 1990 and 2005 a new prison opened in the United States every 10 days,” Stevenson wrote.


According to a Congressional Research Service report, “the number of state and federal adult correctional facilities rose from 1,277 in 1990 to 1,821 in 2005, a 43% increase.” That’s an increase of 544 new facilities. There are 5,478 days in a 15-year span, which works out to almost exactly one facility every 10 days on average.

John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham Law School specializing criminal justice and the recent boom in mass incarceration, said Booker’s claim is correct if it includes both types of prisons.

Pflaff said Booker is actually underselling the statistic by not going back to 1984. Between 1984 and 2005, the number of facilities grew by about one every 8.5 days.

So Cory Booker was wrong… A new prison isn’t being built every ten days. It’s 8.5 days.

Source: Politifact



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