Once again, we've partnered up with r/ExCons to bring a visual explanation to the incarceration rates of the United States. These 5 Maps tell a story that doesn't bode well for some states - but makes absolute sense for others.
The most recent and thorough report released by the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (say that three times fast) was published in September 2014 by Dr. E. Ann Carson, Ph.D., BJS Statistician. Her report on the subject is absolutely worth reading and we recommend anyone interested in the subject of incarceration in the United States take a look.
Two charts in particular stood out to us - the total number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities and the imprisonment rate of sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities per 100,000.
After looking at these numbers, finding out the number of people in prison without having been sentenced in some states, was astonishing.
Before viewing the total prison population, it is important to look at the total population at the time the imprisonment rates were recorded. Below is a map showing the distribution of the US population among all 50 states. These numbers were taken straight from the US Census.
(Just in case you're counting, don't include this map in your tally, as it is only to set up a foundation for the rest of the maps, which focus on incarceration, specifically.)
With that in mind, it is interesting to see the way in which the Total State Prison Population compares. California and Texas are the best examples to show why looking at state population before looking at prison population matters. California has the largest US population (38,332,521) with Texas coming in second (26,448,193). In almost flip-flop fashion, Texas has the largest prisoner population (168,280) with California coming in second (135,981).
New York, which has the country's third largest population (19,651,127), comes in fifth in terms of total prison population (53,550) by a wide margin.
The case of New York is a good example of why the Total Prisoner Population can seem a little misleading. When you do the math to find out the state prisoner population per 100,000 people living in the state, the picture changes. Louisiana has 847 out of every 100,000 of its residents in jail - the largest in the country. Texas, which has the largest prisoner population, is still pretty bad in that it has the 5th most people in jail for every 100,000 Texans - 602.
Remember California and New York? They are actually some of the best states in the country. California comes in 32nd with 353 and New York comes in 38th with 263. The South is definitely where most of our nation's incarcerated reside, but there are other states in the states that run up and down with the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains that are worth watching - Arizona in particular.
Going back to Total Prisoner Population, it is interesting to look at the difference between those who are serving out sentences and those who aren't sentenced though still under the custody of the state's prison agency. The Sentenced State Prisoner Population follows quite closely with Total Prisoner Population. The differences are not very significant.
The very interesting point, however, is in the difference - the ones who are in jail but are not sentenced. The numbers do not track anything in particular, but look at Texas - it is unbelievable how many people they have in prison who are not sentenced. 7,985. Second place, Oregon, has 2,447. You may not have noticed it, but pay attention to West Virginia. Notice how it is a little more purple than the rest?
When we take the number of unsentenced prisoners and find out what percent of the total prison population that number actually is, a different picture emerges. West Virginia (27.77%) is just under Alaska (28.32%), both of which have an outrageous and unjust number of unsentenced people under their jurisdiction. Texas, which has been the worst state so far, falls to 17th with 4.75% of its total prison population awaiting sentencing.
This may help give you a better understanding of how it all comes together - a comparison of the total number of prisoners versus the total population versus prisoners per 100,000 residents. This will help you see who really imprisons more of their population than the rest.