Speed Reads

Crime and punishment

The American prison population, in one chart

John Moore/Getty Images

As is well known, America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 743 out of 100,000 people imprisoned. But given how prisoners are distributed across thousands of federal, state, and local institutions, it's been hard to get a good sense of how exactly the prison population breaks down.

Until now. The Prison Policy Initiative put together this amazing pie chart that lets you take in all 2.4 million prisoners at a glance.

Here's a small disclaimer:

While the numbers in each slice of this pie chart represent a snapshot cross section of our correctional system, the enormous churn in and out of our confinement facilities underscores how naive it is to conceive of prisons as separate from the rest of our society. In addition to the 688,000 people released from prisons each year, almost 12 million people cycle through local jails each year. [The Prison Policy Initiative]

I highly recommend reading through the full report (which isn't too long), or clicking around to some of their other work. Very good, urgently necessary stuff.