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U.S. Jails More People Than Any Other Country: Chart of the Day

The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate, with Department of Justice data showing more than 2.2 million people are behind bars, equal to a city the size of Houston.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that, with a rate of 730 people per 100,000, the U.S. jails a higher proportion of its citizens than any other country, according to data from the International Centre for Prison Studies, an independent research center associated with England’s University of Essex.

“The model is, if you build it they will come,” said Daniel D’Amico, a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans. “Because we have all these prisons and all of these other resources funneled into our criminal justice system, we have this ability to enforce things that would otherwise be unenforceable.”

“That includes the drug war, but it’s also including everything from the Martha Stewart types to immigration policies,” D’Amico said. “The scope of things that are now criminal in corporate law is exponentially higher than it was merely twenty years ago.”

The U.S. also leads the world in the number of prisons in operation at 4,575, more than four times the number of second- place Russia at 1,029. U.S. states spent $52 billion to construct and operate those prisons in 2011, more than quadruple the $12 billion spent in 1987, according to data from the Pew Center on the States.

To contact the reporters on this story: Max Raskin in New York at mraskin5@bloomberg.net; Ilan Kolet in Ottawa at ikolet@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexandre Tanzi at atanzi@bloomberg.net

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