Federal prisons held fewer inmates in 2014 than the year before, but the costs of keeping them open continued to climb as overcrowding threatened the safety of guards and prisoners alike.

The first dip in the prison population since 1980 did nothing to stem the flow of money into the Department of Justice Bureau of Prisons, which soaked up a quarter of the agency’s budget last year.

In a video discussing the problem released Thursday, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said “unless the Justice Department’s overall budget grows in the years ahead, continuing increases in the BOP's budget will require the department to reduce spending in other areas.”

In any case, the federal prison system is a “critical area” that will require the “sustained attention” of the IG “for the foreseeable future,” Horowitz said.

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