How Many Americans Have Been Incarcerated?

Most of us have either been in trouble with the law or known someone who has over the course of our lives. Maybe it was when we were young, maybe it is now. But how many Americans have actually been incarcerated at one time or another?

The United States holds the highest incarceration rate in the world. In the United States, 743 of every 100,000 people is incarcerated. That is, they are currently in prison or jail serving a sentence. To put that in perspective, although the U.S. represents only 5% of the world’s population, a quarter of all of the world’s prisoners is American.

And 3% of the population has been to jail or prison at one time.
Some claim our high incarceration rate is a sign of a crime-filled community that cannot compare to more peaceful countries. Others claim this is a myth, and that the reality of a high incarceration rate has more to do with overly zealous legislators and over-abundant laws than anything else.

The truth may be closer to the latter, as more than half of all inmates are incarcerated for drug-related offenses, not violent crime. Additionally, many complain about the length of prison sentences in the U.S., which are on average quite a bit longer than those in other countries for similar offenses.

This information is not intended to be legal advice.

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