There is a report on the US prison population with interactive map elements that are useful for determining comparisons between states, as well as some district-level data. It is well known that, per capita, our country is more imprisoned than any other country in the world (with one particular known exception). Racial differences in relation to people of color are great, especially among African Americans.
Note: Read also “Imprisonment: The Global Context 2021 “by Emily Widra and Tiana Herring and Prison policy initiative (September 2021), whose report ranks Texas alongside other industrialized countries in the world. We here in Texas are literally off the charts!
For me, the most remarkable aspect of this report was that, despite the declining number of prisoners and imprisonments since the beginning of the 21st century, this trend is dramatically offset by an increase in the number of smaller cities and rural areas in our country that still have a high number of women prisoners. These injustices, as we know, are not only caused by structural racism and implicit bias involving all players in the industrial complex between schools and prisons, but also by the gains in prisons and the jobs they create and help maintain rural areas and smaller cities.
In the spring of 2021 1.8 million
people were imprisoned in the United States.
People are sent to prisons and jails over 11 million times each year.
Updated: December 16, 2021 2:41 AM UTC
After decades of imprisonment across the United States, the number of people in jail and prison has decreased in recent years. However, these nationwide declines mask significant differences in prison and prison trends across districts, states, and regions. Use the map below to explore how your region compares to the other five key imprisonment metrics.
Prison by geography
Although the number of prisoners in the country’s largest cities began to decline in the early 21st century, the number of prisoners increased dramatically in smaller cities and rural areas. Today, about half of all people are imprisoned in local prisons in smaller towns and rural communities. The expansion of prisons in smaller towns and rural areas was partly supported by politics at the federal and state levels. But mass imprisonment is also a local problem, caused by the policies and operations of more than 3,000 local prisons and judicial systems.
Go to the VERA Interactive website
Prison trends at the state level
Despite a significant decrease in imprisonment in a small number of states over the last two decades–and an unprecedented reduction in 2020–the story of American imprisonment was a story of remarkable growth. Use the graphs below to find out which states have seen the largest increase in total inmates and imprisonment.
Go to the VERA Interactive website
Racial differences in imprisonment
Colorful people–and blacks in particular–they are imprisoned to a much greater extent than whites in prisons and prisons across the country. These racial differences reflect a system that treats blacks more severely than whites at all stages of criminal proceedings. Racial disparities cause disproportionate economic, health and social harm to colored communities. Use the tables below to compare the incarceration rates for each racial group.
Blacks are imprisoned more often than white people across the rural and urban spheres. Although urban areas still show the greatest racial disparities, they have made greater progress in reducing racial disparities over the last three decades than rural districts and smaller cities, where the overall prison rate is highest today.
‘Go to the VERA Interactive website
Comparison of districts
Mass imprisonment is a local problem that requires a local solution. In the table below, you can see how key imprisonment metrics compare across U.S. districts. For each state, the table shows the district with the highest incarceration and population.