This past decade has seen such a large increase in the U.S. prison and jail population that there can be no historical comparison, reports theNational Institute of Corrections. If the number of those incarcerated were added to the unemployment rate, the rate would be 2% greater. In the year 2000, 2 million (or 25%) of the world’s 8 million prisoners were housed in the U.S. (which only has 5% of the world’s population). That figure grew to nearly 2.3 million in 2010.
There is little demonstrative correlation between actual crime rates and imprisonment policies. Incarceration policies in the U.S. disproportionately impact minorities, particularly African Americans. The amount of money spent to incarcerate 1.2 million nonviolent offenders is six times that spent on child care for 1.25 million children.
In 2010 there were 1,612,071 state and federal prisoners in the U.S, an incarceration rate of 502 people per 100,000. But some states stand out from the rest when it comes to the number of residents locked up. The remaining 687,000 are locked up in city and county jails.
Here are the top five states you might want to think twice about visiting or relocating to if you have a particular aversion to spending time behind bars.
5 States with the Highest Prison Incarceration Rate (This rate excludes those in city and county jails)
Louisiana – Where Everyone Has a 2% Chance of Landing Behind Bars
1 in 55 Residents Incarcerated (this rate includes prisons as well as city and county jails)
While the crime rate in Louisiana is about 18% higher than the national average, its incarceration rate is a disproportionate 48% higher than than the national average, according to theNationalInstituteofCorrections. Louisiana incarcerates about 881 people per 100,000. That means one out of every 55 Louisiana residents is behind bars, the highest incarceration rate of any state, according to research released in 2009 by the PewCenterfortheStates, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Louisiana continues to lock-up too many elderly prisoners and too many people whose biggest problem is addiction. June, 2008 figures from the Louisiana Department of Corrections show that 13% of the prison population in Louisiana is over the age of 50. More than 30% of inmates were convicted of drug offenses. Louisiana also disproportionately incarcerates African-Americans, with more than 60% of its prisoners being African-American.
There are 116 jail or prison facilities throughout Louisiana’s 64 parishes, including two private prisons.
Mississippi – A Safe Place to Live, A Bad Place to Get Arrested
1 in 69 Residents Incarcerated (this rate includes prisons as well as city and county jails)
The crime rate in Mississippi is about 12% lower than the national average. Yet, Mississippi’s incarceration rate is a whopping 38% higher than than the national average, a rate of 702 per 100,000 according to the National Institute of Corrections.
In 2008, Mississippi rolled back to 25 percent, from 85 percent, the portion of sentences
that nonviolent offenders are required to serve prior to parole eligibility. Between July 2008, when the law took effect, and August 2009, Mississippi paroled 3,076 inmates a median of 13 months sooner than they would have under the 85 percent law, which was passed in 1995.
Through August 2009, only 121 of those paroled offenders have been returned to custody—116 for technical violations of parole and five for nonviolent offenses. This initial recidivism
rate of 0.2% (return for a new offense) in the first year is a fraction of the national rate of 10.4%.
Officials attribute the low recidivism rate to the use of a new risk assessment tool, which is helping distinguish between inmates who can be safely paroled and those who need to remain behind bars.
Throughout Mississippi’s 82 counties there are 114 jail or prison facilities.
Oklahoma – Where They Don’t Discriminate Against Women
1 in 76 Residents Incarcerated (this rate includes prisons as well as city and county jails)
The crime rate in Oklahoma is about 8% higher than the national average. Oklahoma has an incarceration rate 32% higher than than the national average, according to the NationalInstituteofCorrections. Oklahoma imprisons 657 people out of 100,000.
Of 26,397 prisoners in Oklahoma in 2009, 2,625 were female and 23,772 were male according tostatehealthfacts.org. Of our Five Most Ruthless, Oklahoma holds the distinction of having the highest percentage of female prisoners at 10%. There are 27,940 probationers and 3,073 parolees in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s 77 counties support 116 jails and prisons.
Alabama – Where At Least You Might Get Parole
1 in 75 Residents Incarcerated (this rate includes prisons as well as city and county jails)
The crime rate in Alabama is about 19% higher than the national average rate. Property crimes account for around 90% of the crime rate in Alabama which is 21% higher than the national rate. Alabama’s incarceration rate is 30% higher than than the national average, with 650 people per 100,000 incarcerated.
There are 99 jail facilities throughout Alabama’s 67 counties with a combined rated capacity of 15,107 inmates. The Department of Corrections is responsible for inspecting jails for standards compliance. (2007)
Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb said Alabama ranks near the top of the nation in the percentage of people it puts behind bars, but that has not reduced the state’s crime rate. Alabama is working to reform sentencing to reduce its prison population, according to the Birmingham News,
In response to the story in the Birmingham News story on reforming Alabama sentencing laws, readerdixieh wrote: “Usually the state of Alabama lets the violent offenders out first because the judicial industry isn’t able to wring any more money out of them….God help you if you got caught with weed though, ’cause you’ll do more time in the clink than a pedophile would.”
Texas – The Best Place to Meet a Convict on the Street
1 in 71 Residents Incarcerated (but that’s not all…) (this rate include prisons as well as city and county jails)
The crime rate in Texas is about 18% higher than the national average rate. Property crimes account for around 88.7% of the crime rate in Texas which is 19% higher than the national rate. Texas has an incarceration rate 31% higher than than the national average according to theNationalInstituteofCorrections, imprisoning 648 people per 100,000.
Here’s the kicker: Texas is home to 427,080 probationers and 102,921 parolees. If they all lived in once place, the probationers and parolees would constitute a population larger than Tucson, Arizona and would be the 33rd largest city in the USA.
Texas pays $15,527 per inmate per year, the 5th lowest amount in the nation. How? In January 2007, Texas faced a projected prison population increase of up to 17,000 inmates in just five years. Rather than spend nearly $2 billion on new prison construction and operations to accommodate this growth, policy makers reinvested a fraction of this amount—$241 million—in a network of residential and community-based treatment and diversion programs. This strategy has greatly expanded sentencing options for new offenses and sanctioning options for probation violators. Texas also increased its parole grant rate and shortened probation terms. As a result, this strong law-and-order state not only prevented the large projected population increase but reduced its prison population over the three years since the reforms were passed.
Throughout Texas’s 254 counties there are 362 jail and prison facilities, even more than California, the most populated state in the country.