Incarcerated In America: Why Are So Many People In US Prisons? [CHARTS]

  @lisamahapatra on March 19 2014 3:36 PM

The United States jails more people per capita than every other country in the world, except Seychelles. There were 707 people in prison for every 100,000 residents in the United States in 2012, just two less than Seychelles’s 709 per 100,000.

To put this in perspective, Seychelles is a tiny island nation with a total population of less than 100,000 people. That means that there are actually less than 709 people total in the whole country.

The United States prison populations was more than 2 million in 2012. It doesn’t really make much sense to compare the U.S. to tiny countries with relatively miniscule populations.

Here’s a chart that looks at the incarceration rate of the 50 most populous countries in the world, except North Korea:

prisoners2-01 Incarceration rates of the 50 most populous countries except North Korea.  IBTimes/Lisa Mahapatra Even Russia, the second country on this ranking of 50, jails a little more than half as many people as United States, “the land of the free.”

So why are so many people in prison in the United States? The Prison Policy Initiative, a watchdog group looked at the most recent prison stats available and figured out what sorts of prisons people were locked up in, and for what reasons.

Here’s a chart that looks at inmates by the type of correctional facility they’re in, and by the charges filed against them:

prisoners-01 A deeper look at U.S. correctional facilities and the inmates they house.  IBTimes/Lisa Mahapatra

Notes on definitions:

Territorial prisons: Prisons in U.S. territories, like American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Civil Commitment centers: Post-sentence treatment centers, usually for sexually violent predators.

Indian Country jails: Correctional facilities run by tribal authorities or the Bureau of indian Affairs.

Homicide vs. Manslaughter vs. Murder: Homicide refers to the killing of another human being, murder implies an intent to kill. Manslaughter is when the act of killing another human being is deemed an accident.

For more information on how the data was gathered, click here.

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