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Incarceration rates in OECD countries as of May 2020

This statistic shows the incarceration rate in OECD countries, as of May 2020. The incarceration rate represents the number of people in prison per 100,000 of population. As of May 2020 the incarceration rate in the United States was 655 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents.

Additional information on incarceration patterns between countries

The relatively large population of the United States when compared with other OECD countries in conjunction with the country’s extremely high incarceration rate means that the United States houses more than one half of the global prison population. Recent attention has been focused on the number of people imprisoned for minor offences. As such, a large proportion of the United States prison population have been incarcerated for offences that would see them fined or punished through alternative means in other developed countries.

Among this cohort are a significant number of people imprisoned for low-level drug related crimes. Critics have suggested that shifting policy toward drug rehabilitation for users and a focus on high level drug traffickers would have a positive societal effect whilst also lowering the country’s incarceration rate.
When removing the outlier of the United States, a level of variance between countries is apparent. This variance in incarceration rates among OECD countries suggests cultural differences in societal views towards punishment and rehabilitation. The Scandinavian preference of rehabilitation and the subsequently higher level of investment in such programs have resulted in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland ranking among those countries for whom the incarceration rate is the lowest.

Incarceration rates in OECD countries as of May 2020

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Release date

May 2020



Survey time period

As of May, 2020

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