18 Facts You Need to Know About U.S. Prisons

An inmate serving a jail sentence rests his hand on a fence at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix July 30, 2010. Joshua Lott/Reuters
  1. Over 2.2 million people are currently in U.S. jails or prisons.
  2. That's more than the entire population of New Mexico.
  3. It's the highest prison population in the entire world.*
  4. The U.S. also has the highest prison rate in the world at about 724 people per 100,000.*
  5. Half of the world's prison population of approximately 9 million people is held in the U.S., Russia, or China.
  6. Over 2.7 million children in the U.S. have a parent behind bars.
  7. There are over 5,000 jails and prisons in the U.S.
  8. There are more jails than colleges in the U.S.
  9. In many parts of the country, there are more people in jail than living on college campuses.
  10. The U.S. prison population has more than quadrupled since the early 1980s: when mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drugs when into effect.
  11. Severe prison overcrowding means that violent criminals are being released early to make room for non-violent drug offenders who are required to serve a minimum amount of time--regardless of what a judge says.
  12. About half of the inmates in federal prisons are serving time for non-violent drug offenses.
  13. Federal law currently requires a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for a first-time, non-violent drug offense.
  14. Approximately 60 percent of federal drug offenders are subject to mandatory minimum sentences.
  15. The average annual cost to incarcerate one inmate in federal prison is about $29,000.
  16. Incarceration costs taxpayers almost $70 billion annually.
  17. State spending on corrections has grown about 300 percent in just the past 20 years.
  18. The Smarter Sentencing Act would save taxpayers nearly $24 billion over the next 20 years.

(*Excludes countries that cannot be verified, e.g., North Korea)

This article first appeared on the Freedomworks website.