Data: Incarceration Nation


Does the U.S. really lock up more people per capita than China? Maybe not. Press coverage of a recent Pew Center on the States report on the U.S. incarceration rate highlighted the unfavorable U.S.-China comparison. But China's totalitarian-cum-authoritarian government does not have a reputation for candor on touchy subjects, so its official prisoner figures may not be completely reliable.

Still, it's clear that the United States, where more than one in 100 adults is behind bars, has a much higher incarceration rate than any other democracy—more than twice the rates in Ukraine, Estonia, and Latvia; more than five times the rates in Spain, Scotland, and the Netherlands; and more than 10 times the rates in Denmark, Italy, and Finland. The difference is largely due to mandatory minimum sentences and the war on drugs, which accounts for half a million of the 2.3 million Americans under lock and key.