July 22, 2011

Worldwide incarceration tops 10 million

Photo credit: Richard Ross, Architecture of Authority collection
More than 10.1 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world according to the latest edition of the World Prison Population List (WPPL), published this week by the International Centre for Prison Studies in London. Rates vary considerably between different regions of the world, and between different parts of the same continent.

The United States' prison total constitutes a rate of 743 per 100,000 of the national population, making it pro rata by far the biggest user of prison in the world. The overall world prison population rate is 146 per 100,000.
The fact that there are now over ten million men, women and children in prisons around the world should be a matter of grave public concern. A small proportion of these are a threat to public safety and there is no question that they need to be detained. However, in many countries the majority of prisoners come from minority and marginalised groups, or are mentally ill, or are drug and alcohol abusers. Sending such people to prison is inappropriate, does not improve public safety and is very expensive. There are indications in a number of countries that current economic difficulties are at last forcing politicians and public commentators to acknowledge that prisons cannot continue to expand in the way they have done in recent years.

The WPPL provides up-to-date information on the global prison population based on official government data from 218 countries and territories.

The current report is HERE.

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