36 U.S. States Have One Shameful Thing in Common Compared to the Rest of the World

We all know that the U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country in the world — by sheer number and per capita — but how do things look on the state level?

Approximately 2.2 million Americans, or 1 in 100 adults, currently live behind bars. But while incarceration rates remain high throughout the U.S., some states have much larger prison populations than others.


Image Credit: Prison Policy Initiative

According to the criminal justice think tank Prison Policy Initiative, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, followed by other southern states such as Mississippi, Oklahoma, Georgia and Texas. Thirty-six states, in addition to Washington, D.C., have higher rates of incarceration than the next highest country on the list: Cuba.

As for the states with the lowest rates, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and North Dakota (and Puerto Rico) bring up the rear. But while these numbers might be low for the U.S., they are still on par with those of entire nations, such as Iran, Ukraine, South Africa, Brazil and Chile.

One important thing to keep in mind is that these numbers are taken from the 2010 U.S. Census, which counts inmates as residents of the states where they are behind bars. As such, it does not accurately reflect where the inmates are actually from, since a large portion of the incarcerated population happen to be in federal or state prisons in states they are not originally from. Still, as Prison Policy Initiative notes, "State politics certainly influence whether and where federal prisons are built," and it's worth knowing which states decide to open their doors to more inmates.

Check out the full graph below (click here for the interactive version):


Image Credit: Prison Policy Institute

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

MORE FROM

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.