U.S. Imprisonment Rates ‘Out of Step With the World’

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Incarceration rates for U.S. states “are out of step with the rest of the world,” according to a new analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative. The report, “States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2016,” updates a 2014 analysis. Louisiana had the highest state incarceration rate in the new report, followed by Georgia, Oklahoma and Alabama. South Dakota, at No. 5, was the only northern state in the top 10. (The rate for Washington, D.C., was higher than even Louisiana.) Overall in the U.S., 685 of every 100,000 people were imprisoned, compared with 145 in the United Kingdom, 114 in Canada, and 70 in Norway.

Massachusetts and Vermont had the lowest state rates. “Compared to Louisiana, these states look progressive,” said report co-author Alison Walsh. “But if these states were independent nations, they would rank as the 11th and 12th greatest users of incarceration on the planet.” Co-author Peter Wagner said, “I hope that this data helps all states prioritize further criminal justice reforms. Lower incarceration rates are not only possible, in the rest of the world they are a reality.”

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