Incarceration Rates By Country 2019

Incarceration is the state of being confined in prison or imprisonment.

Mass incarceration in the United States has led to several issues, including overcrowded prisons, which increase health risks and decreased psychological well-being. Additionally, the increasing number of prisoners is putting a major strain on state budgets. Prisons must control and administer all aspects of life for inmates, which lengthy and costly list of necessities. Prison costs include adequate security, food, recreational and education opportunities, infrastructure maintenance, utility costs for the facilities, and providing healthcare for the prisoners. State prison spending varies greatly and can be as high as $69,355 per inmate (the average cost of an inmate in New York).

The United States is the world leader in incarceration, despite the nationwide incarceration rate being at its lowest in 20 years, with about 25% of the world’s prison population being in the US. The United States currently has over 2.1 million total prisoners. The prison population in 1972 was 200,000, almost 2 million less than it is today.

Mass incarceration in the United States is a civil rights issue, as many argue that incarceration dehumanizes poor people and minorities, does not increase public safety, and damages already marginalized communities.

Around the world, many countries have jail occupancy rates over 100%. Kenya’s jail occupancy level is currently 284%.

The United States prisoner rate (number of prisoners per 100,000 people) is 737, the highest in the world, followed by Russia at 615.

The ten countries with the highest incarceration rates are:

  1. United States (737)
  2. Russia (615)
  3. Ukraine (350)
  4. South Africa (334)
  5. Poland (235)
  6. Mexico (196)
  7. Brazil (193)
  8. Spain (144)
  9. Kenya (130)
  10. Netherlands (128)

Below is a table of each country’s total number of prisoners, prisoner rate and jail occupancy level.

* Prisoners rate is number of prisoners per 100,000 population
Country Total Number of Prisoners Prisoners Rate Jail Occupancy Level Population 2019
Norway3,0486692.10%5,378,857
Finland3,95475112.40%5,532,156
Switzerland6,1118393.40%8,591,365
Sweden7,45082102.70%10,036,379
Austria8,766105107.20%8,955,102
Belgium9,59791110.60%11,539,328
Portugal12,765120103.70%10,226,187
Netherlands21,01312895.60%17,097,130
Australia25,790125105.90%25,203,198
Nigeria40,44430101.50%200,963,599
Kenya47,036130284.30%52,573,973
France52,00985109.90%65,129,728
Italy61,721104131.50%60,550,075
Spain63,991144129.50%46,736,776
Turkey65,4589177.40%83,429,615
Germany77,1669496.50%83,517,045
Japan79,05262105.90%126,860,301
Poland89,546235124.40%37,887,768
South Africa158,501334138.60%58,558,270
Ukraine162,602350101.30%43,993,638
Mexico214,450196133.90%127,575,529
India332,11230139.00%1,366,417,754
Brazil371,482193150.90%211,049,527
Russia874,16161579.50%145,872,256
China1,548,4981180.00%1,433,783,686
United States2,193,798737107.60%329,064,917