The Countries Imprisoning the Most People
Generally, smaller countries tend to rank higher on the list, with a few hundred or thousand people in prison already making up a large share of the population. Restrictive regimes like Turkmenistan and Cuba also rank high, making the U.S. an outlier on the list.
The reasons for the questionable U.S. frontrunner position are myriad. Most U.S. inmates are held in local jail or state prisons. Here, the U.S. bond system determines that many of them are simply not walking free because they cannot afford bail. While the “war on drugs” has sent many inmates to federal prisons in the past, the same isn’t true for local and state facilities, where inmates are incarcerated for a sleuth of different reasons. One problem that applies to the majority of inmates though is the quite public stigma that come with incarceration in the U.S. With background checks very usual in the country and the need to register for certain offenses, many inmates have problems reentering society, causing a high rate of recidivism. The instant that many have served long mandatory minimum sentences only amplifies this aspect.
This chart shows the countries imprisoning the most people as a share of their population.