If the United States were divided up into 50 independent nations, Alabama’s rate of incarceration would be the fifth-highest of any country across the globe.
That’s according to the Prison Policy Initiative‘s (PPI) newly released The States of Incarceration report, which looks at states as if they were independent countries by per-capita rate of incarceration.
According to the PPI, “the U.S. incarcerates 693 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. In fact, [the U.S.] rate of incarceration is more than five times higher than most of the countries in the world. Although [the U.S.] level of crime is comparable to that of other stable, internally secure, industrialized nations, the U.S. has an incarceration rate that far exceeds every other country.”
Here’s a look at the top 22 states with the highest incarceration rates, which all rank above the U.S. as a whole. No other countries are listed, because when it comes to incarceration rates per 100,000 people, more than half of these United States rank above all nations with at least a half million people in total population.
The findings show states from the Deep South lock up more of their residents than the rest of the country. Louisiana incarcerates 1,143 people per 100,000 state residents, Georgia’s imprisonment rate is 1,004 per 100,000 state residents, and Alabama’s rate of incarceration of 987 people locked up for every 100,000 inhabitants.
With a prison system designed only to house 14,000, Alabama’s prisons are severely overcrowded — over 190 percent over capacity — despite the fact the state’s incarceration rate continues to climb.
On May 23, 2011, the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata upheld a court order requiring California to release up to 46,000 prisoners to relieve serious overcrowding in the state’s prisons and remedy grossly inadequate medical and mental health care.
Alabama is hoping to avoid a similar fate. That is why Gov. Robert Bentley has made it one of his missions to reform and improve the Alabama prison system with a plan that would “reduce overcrowding and improve safety conditions for inmates and corrections officers, allow for additional inmate re-entry programs and to improve operational practices and procedures for the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC).”