Comparing and Mapping World Prison Populations

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Pulling data from the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS), Stuart Sandine has create an online tool that allows users to map out and compare worldwide incarceration data.  Sandine’s tool scrapes data from the ICPS so that it can be more easily visualized in the form of maps and graphs.

Hosted on github, Sandine’s site uses AngularJS and D3 to allow for the easy viewing of prison statistics for individual countries and for comparing between two or more countries.  By leaving the search term empty on the lookup page, users can sort by one of nine different prison statistics to see which countries rank the highest and lowest.  

Country with the Most Prisoners

The United States, earns the distinction for having the highest amount of incarcerate individuals at 2,228,424.  The country also ranks first for number of jails, occupancy rate (at 99% most of the prisons are at capacity or overcapacity), and prison population rate (tied with Seychelles at 707 per 100,000).   

Monaco (93.8%) and United Arab Emirates (92.2%) are the only countries that have more than ninety percent of prisoners that are foreign.  Monaco also has the highest percentage of female prisoners at 31.3%. The map page lets users see choropleth maps for each of the nine prison statistics tracked.

Map of worldwide incarceration rates.  Number of prisoners per 100,000 residents.
Map of worldwide incarceration rates. Number of prisoners per 100,000 residents.

The compare page lets users see bar graphs of prison statistics for one or more compare.  Users can either pick from the drop down list or type in the countries they want to compare.

Comparing prison statistics among countries.
Comparing prison statistics among countries.

The trends page lets users plot out on a line graph for either total prison population or prison population rate for one or more countries.  The resulting graph shows prison rate changes every two years from 1992 -2012.

Changes in prison incarceration rates from 1992 - 2012.
Changes in prison incarceration rates from 1992 – 2012.

Visit: Worldwide Incarceration Data

Five percent of the population, twenty-five percent of the prisoners

The NY Times takes a look at the substantially higher number of inmates in America versus any other country.  With 2.3 million criminals behind bars, the United States incarcerates people for certain crimes that rarely receive prison sentences in other countries. 

For example, China, which has a population four times that of the United States, has only 1.6 million people imprisoned.  The rate of incarceration in America means that roughly 1 in 100 adults are behind bars. 

The NY Times points to a variety of reasons provide by experts to explain the higher rate of incarceration: “higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net.



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