Legalization Facts by Pete Guither Heading Image
Over-incarceration and the Influence of the Prison-Industrial Complex

The United States has 5% of the world's population
but 25% of the world's prison population


The United States leads the world in incarceration rates.


Federal prisons were estimated to hold 176,268 sentenced inmates as of Sept. 30, 2006. Of these, 16,507 were incarcerated for violent offenses, including 2,923 for homicide, 9,645 for robbery, and 3,939 for other violent crimes. In addition, 10,015 inmates were serving time for property crimes, including 519 for burglary, 6,437 for fraud, and 3,059 for other property offenses. A total of 93,751 were incarcerated for drug offenses. Also, 54,336 were incarcerated for public-order offenses, incluging 19,496 for immigration offenses and 24,298 for weapons offenses.

Source: Sabol, William J., PhD, Couture, Heather, and Harrison, Paige M., Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2006 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, December 2007), NCJ219416, p. 26, Appendix Table 13.


"At yearend 2006 correctional facilities in the United States held an estimated 2,385,213 inmates in custody, including inmates in Federal and State prisons, territorial prisons, local jails, facilities operated by or exclusively for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), military facilities, jails in Indian country, and youth in juvenile facilities. During 2006 the total incarcerated population increased by 2.8%, or 64,579 inmates."

Federal and State Prisons 1,492,973 (which excludes State and Federal prisoners in local jails)
Territorial Prisons 15,205
Local Jails 766,010(as of June 30, 2006)
ICE Facilities 14,482
Military Facilities 1,944
Jails in Indian Country 1,745(as of midyear 2004)
Juvenile Facilities 92,854(as of March 29, 2006)
Source: Sabol, William J., PhD, Couture, Heather, and Harrison, Paige M., Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2006 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, December 2007), NCJ219416, p. 3.


"The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 738 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia (611), St Kitts & Nevis (547), U.S. Virgin Is. (521), Turkmenistan (c.489), Belize (487), Cuba (c.487), Palau (478), British Virgin Is. (464), Bermuda (463), Bahamas (462), Cayman Is. (453), American Samoa (446), Belarus (426) and Dominica (419). "However, more than three fifths of countries (61%) have rates below 150 per 100,000. (The rate in England and Wales - 148 per 100,000 of the national population - is above the mid-point in the World List.)"

Source: Walmsley, Roy, "World Prison Population List (Seventh Edition)" (London, England: International Centre for Prison Studies, 2007), p. 1.


The U.S. nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska.

Source: John Irwin, Ph. D., Vincent Schiraldi, and Jason Ziedenberg, America's One Million Nonviolent Prisoners (Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute, 1999), pg. 4.


The table below shows the average sentence (mean and median) imposed on Federal prisoners for various offenses in 2000.

Average Federal Sentence
Offense   Mean     Median  
All Offenses   56.8 months     33.0 months  
All Felonies   58.0 months     36.0 months  
Violent Felonies   63.0 months  
Drug Felonies   75.6 months     55.0 months  
Property Felony - Fraud   22.5 months     14.0 months  
Property Felony - Other   33.4 months     18.0 months  
Public Order Felony - Regulatory   28.0 months     15.0 months  
Public Order Felony - Other   46.5 months     30.0 months  
Misdemeanors   10.3 months     6.0 months  
Source: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Federal Criminal Case Processing, 2000, With Trends 1982-2000 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, November 2001), p. 12, Table 6.




Read about the Prison Industrial Complex