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US incarceration is 5 to 10 times higher than that of other NATO countries

A Prison Policy Initiative study showed that the United States’ incarceration rate is literally off the charts when compared with other countries.

The United States’ incarceration rate, which currently stands at 693 for every 100,000 people, far exceeds all other "stable, internally secure, industrialized nations," PPI said in the report. As Vox’s Dara Lind recently pointed out, the rate of incarceration in the United States is drastically higher today than it has ever been.

PPI’s report, published Thursday, shows the rate in the US is five to 10 times that of other NATO countries. To compare, the country with the second highest rate among NATO members is the United Kingdom, which incarcerates 145 per 100,000 people.

Prison Policy Initiative

PPI also released a graph comparing state incarceration rates with national statistics as a whole. Incarceration rates were higher than the national average in 22 states. Eleven states stood between the US national average and the second-highest country on the list, Turkmenistan.

Prison Policy Initiative

Turkmenistan has an authoritarian government whose human rights record has been criticized by the US State Department, but, as shown above, the District of Columbia alone has an incarceration rate that more than doubles that of the Middle Eastern country.

As pointed out by PPI, most countries with high incarceration rates have recently experienced "large-scale internal conflict," but the US, "which has enjoyed a long history of political stability and hasn’t had a civil war in over a century and a half, tops the list."

Even among states with the lowest rates, the results were still staggering when compared on a world stage:

Six of the U.S. states with the lowest incarceration rates — Utah, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts — have higher incarceration rates than countries that have experienced major 20th century social traumas, including several former Soviet republics and South Africa. The two U.S. states that incarcerate the least are Vermont and Massachusetts, but if those states became independent nations, they would rank as the 11th and 12th greatest users of incarceration on the planet.


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