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Senior Member
The quotation comes from Prison Population Growing Although Crime Rate Drops

Quotation: The nation's prison population grew by 5.2 percent in 1997, according to the Justice Department, even though crime has been declining for six straight years, suggesting that the imprisonment boom has developed a built-in growth dynamic independent of the crime rate, experts say.

In a new report, the Justice Department said the number of Americans in local jails and in state and Federal prisons rose to 1,725,842 in 1997, up from 1.1 million in 1990. During that period, the incarceration rate in state and Federal prisons rose to 445 per 100,000 Americans in 1997, up from 292 per 100,000 in 1990.
Hi everyone! How to understand "built-in" here?
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    It refers to an inherent growth dynamic - a reason for the growth that comes from within the (jail/imprisonment) system itself that's independent of crime rate.

    How to understand "built-in" here?
    I suggest "How should I understand/interpret...?" or "How is X to be understood?"

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    It's a dynamic that comes from within the justice system itself, generated by such malfunctions as severer sentencing, absence of non-prison alternatives, failure of rehabilitation schemes and early releases on parole.

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    The sense of "built-in" here is actually explained in the third paragraph of your link:
    As for why the number of prisoners continues to grow while crime drops, Martin Horn, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Corrections, said: ''You have to understand that as incarcerating more people has helped reduce crime, the number of people we sent to prison in previous years is tending to build up, creating a delayed effect. So you've built in this escalating growth.'' (nytimes.com)
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