Behind Bars: The State of America’s Prison System

Not many federal systems in the United States can boast a more corrupted system than its prisons. With more individuals estimated behind bars than the entire population of Slovenia, there may be a few things to reconsider.

The Facts on Incarceration

According to The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group for prison reform, America’s prison population has seen a 500% increase over the past 30 years. The rise has been an exponential one, as depicted by the graphic below:


The U.S. boasts about five percent of the world’s population; yet it contains 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people. Many important statistics can be found easily on the Federal Bureau of Prisons webpage. Here are a few of the facts:

  • Over 46 percent of inmates currently in prison were arrested on drug offenses, followed fairly far behind by those incarcerated for weapons, explosives and arson
  • 37.8 percent of inmates are black, while blacks make up only 13.2 percent of America’s population
  • The largest population of incarcerated individuals are currently serving five to ten years (25.1 percent) while those serving 20 years or more constitute 15.5 percent.

Racial Disparities

In the 2015 report from Human Rights Watch, it was found that African American men are incarcerated at six times the rate of white men. Additionally, three percent of all black males in the United States are estimated to currently be in prison.

While the rates of white and black men engaging in illegal behaviors (like drug offences) are comparable, black males receive statistically harsher sentencing and are arrested at a much higher rate.



One thought on “Behind Bars: The State of America’s Prison System

  1. Thanks for laying out this information in such a clear format! This is actually the first place where I’ve seen the facts on American incarceration listed in a quick, easily-readable way. I would be interested in knowing more about the root causes of this problem, maybe something you can reflect on in a future blog post?


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