Most US States Have Higher Prison Rates Than Other Whole Countries

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2014 12:58 PM

By Melanie Batley

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A majority of U.S. states have incarceration rates higher than every other country in the world, including many liberal states, a new analysis has found.

According to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, the United States incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country in the world. The rate is five times higher than most other stable, industrialized nations, even though U.S. crime rates are broadly comparable.

"Around the globe, governments respond to illegal activity and social unrest in many ways. Here in the United States, policymakers in the 1970s made the decision to start incarcerating Americans at globally unprecedented rates," the report said.

Federal and state lawmakers have recently tried to reduce financial expenditures on the prison system, in some cases relaxing drug and incarceration laws, but even with reforms, 36 states have higher rates of incarceration than the second-highest country behind the United States, Cuba, according to Vox.

Vermont, the state with the lowest incarceration rate, imprisons people at far higher rates than countries such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as well as Israel, for example.

Meanwhile, the blue states of Massachusetts, California, and Maine, all have higher prison rates than South Africa, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, countries known for their harsh penal systems.

In addition, Utah, Nebraska, and Iowa all lock up a greater portion of their populations than El Salvador, a country with a recent civil war and one of the highest homicide rates in the world, the reported noted.

"The record also shows that our country's experiment with mass incarceration has not managed to significantly enhance public safety, but instead has consistently and disproportionately stunted the social and economic well-being of poor communities and communities of color for generations," the report said.

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