This chart may astound you. It shows that the U.S. and most individual states lead the rest of the world in terms of incarceration rates. At 0.7% of the population, the U.S. is ahead of all other countries, including Cuba, Russia, and other nations to which we’d otherwise not wish to compare ourselves. Again, most individual states finish ahead of all other nations, well ahead. States at the top of the list have incarceration rates 2-3 times higher than Cuba, the next highest country. According to this article, “The United States has about 5% of the world’s population yet it accounts for about 25% of the world’s prisoners.” The failed war on drugs in the U.S. is one obvious factor behind our large prison population. Land of the free?
Reason Magazine has a special issue, linked here, on the topic of mass incarceration.