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United States Ranks #1 for Inmates & Prisons


The United States is number one in the world when it comes to having the largest population of inmates, prisons, and solitary confinement.

United States Prison Statistics

  • The U.S. currently has 2.3 million inmates, the largest number in the world.
  • While the U.S. has 5% of the world's population, it has 25% of all inmates.
  • The incarceration rate for the U.S. is five times the rate in England, eight times the rate of Germany, and 12 times the rate of Japan.
  • With 4,575 prisons operating in the U.S., we have four times more prisons than Russia, which is in second place with 1,029 prisons.

Source: Prison Path

Why the explosion in America's incarceration rate? There are a number of reasons, for one: in the late 1970s, America announced its “war on drugs.” Back in 1980, nonviolent drug offenders comprised less than 10% of the U.S. prison population, but now nonviolent drug offenders make up 25% of our prison population.

While we have seen a decrease in violent crime, mandatory sentencing and three strike laws have crippled judges, thereby removing their discretion, and many courts have no choice but to sentence offenders to lengthy, unjustified terms of incarceration. For instance, in Rummel v. Estelle, the Supreme Court handed down a life sentence to William James Rummel after his $120.75 felony fraud crime was his third offense. What happened? He refused to return money to an unsatisfied customer after he had repaired an air conditioning unit.

Private prisons are big business in the United States. Major prison companies rake in huge profits, and they are even paid for empty beds. Sadly, with a lack of effective rehabilitation programs for inmates and inadequate reentry programs, the vast majority of prisoners relapse into criminal behavior.

National Statistics on Recidivism

  • Within three years of release, 67.8% of prisoners are rearrested.
  • Within five years of release, 76.6% of prisoners are rearrested.
  • 76.9% of drug offenders are rearrested for a new crime.

Source: National Institute of Justice

Solitary Confinement in the U.S.

Today, over 80,000 of inmates are in some form of segregation in U.S. prisons and 25,000 of these inmates are being held in supermax prisons. (Human Rights Watch (2003) “Ill-Equipped: US Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness.”)

In the early 1970s, local, state and federal prison and jail administrators began to rely increasingly on isolation to control men, women, and youth in custody. Currently, there are 44 states with supermax facilities, which confine over 30,000 people (many in solitary cells).

Prisoners in isolation are often confined to tiny cells without windows for up to 23 or 24 hours a day. Some prisoners are subjected to mental torture including sensory deprivation, bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia. Many prisoners who are not mentally ill when they enter isolation, suffer extreme psychological disturbances once they are released back into the community.

Our Thoughts on the Matter

At The Hammer Law Firm, LLC, we believe that it is alarming that the United States has the highest prison population in the world. For a country that prides itself on freedom and individual liberty, it is completely unacceptable that as a nation we have deprived so many of our own citizens of those rights.

It is time to change our system of punishment and deprivation, and instead, treat offenders as human beings who are capable of change and rehabilitation.

Were you or someone you love arrested? Contact The Hammer Law Firm, LLC to work with a team of former prosecutors with over 60 years of criminal law experience. We are tough negotiators, we care about you and we stand ready to fight for your freedom and your future!

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