U.S. is the World’s Imprisonment Capital

Released: 
November 03, 2012

The U.S. incarcerates more of its people than any country in the world. 1 of every 104 Americans is behind bars.

Here’s one growth industry the U.S. can point to, for better or worse: the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than any country in the world. The U.S. makes up 5 percent of the world’s population but accounts for 25 percent of its prisoners.

We had 1.6 million inmates behind bars, federal and state, in 2010 – more than the population of Idaho. One of every 104 American adults is locked up. Nearly every state has increased sentences since 1990. Time served for drug offenses was up 36 percent; for violent crimes, 37 percent.

Annual spending on state and federal prisoners is about $60 billion. See some of the facilities we’re paying for in today’s photo gallery. Then tackle the big question of criminal sentencing policy in the discussion below. Why do you think we have so many people behind bars? Should we be doing anything different?