The American Gulag


According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. gained 62,000 more jail and prison inmates last year, the biggest increase in six years. There are more than 2.2 million people behind bars in America, or one out of every 133 of us. We have 5 percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of its prison population. And we by far lead the world in incarcerations. That includes China, which has four times our total population.

Perhaps the most staggering figure on U.S. prison populations is one regularly cited by Jack Cole, head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition: At the height of apartheid in South Africa, 851 of every 100,000 black men in that country were behind bars. As of 2005 in the U.S., 4,419 of every 100,000 black men were.