NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Imprisonment Rates Vary By Region

July 23, 1999

If present incarceration rates stay constant, some 5 percent of Americans will go to prison at some time in their lives, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

But on a per capita basis, the rates of incarceration are highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast.

  • The five states with the most prisoners per 100,000 population are in the South -- Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Carolina.
  • The incarceration rate is 24 percent higher in the South than in the West -- and 60 percent higher than in the Northeast.
  • The murder rate in the South is 8.4 per 100,000 -- compared with 6.8 in the West and 4.8 in the Northeast.
  • Sentences in the South tend to be longer, too -- 84 months on average, versus 59 months everywhere else.

Source: "Where the Jailbirds Are," Economist, July 17, 1999.


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