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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Which countries imprison the most people?

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As you can see, Britain (this chart averages rates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) imprisons substantially more people (147 per 100,000) than the OECD norm of 115. I have to confess to being surprised that New Zealand is such a punitive society.

Incarceration rates

The Hamilton Project has produced an interesting report; Ten economic facts about crime and incarceration in the United States . One of these “facts” compares the incarceration rate of 115 countries who belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Unsurprisingly, the US imprisons a much greater proportion of its residents – 710 per 100,000 than any other country. The main factors are:

  • A homicide rate which is four times the OECD average
  • Drug control policies
  • Sentencing policy (average prison time for drug offences in US is 23 months, compared to 12 months in England and Wales and seven months in France).

incarceration rate Hamilton project

As you can see, Britain (this chart averages rates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) imprisons substantially more people (147 per 100,000) than the OECD norm of 115. I have to confess to being surprised that New Zealand is such a punitive society.

The incarceration rates are for 2013.

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