More than 10 million people in jail worldwide!


Key points 

More than 10.1 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners or as sentenced prisoners. Almost half of these are in the United States (2.29m), Russia (0.81m) or China (1.65m sentenced prisoners). In addition more than 650,000 are in ‘detention centres’ in China; if these are included the overall Chinese total is over 2.3 million and the world total more than 10.75 million.

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, 743 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Rwanda (c. 595), Russia (568), Georgia (547), U.S. Virgin Is. (539), Seychelles (507), St Kitts & Nevis (495), British Virgin Is. (468), Belize (439), Dominica (431), Bermuda (428), Grenada (423) and Curacao (422).

However, more than half the countries and territories (54%) have rates below 150 per 100,000.

The world population at mid-2010 was estimated at 6.9 billion (United Nations); if set against the world prison population of 10.1 million this would produce a world prison population rate of 146 per 100,000 (156 per 100,000 if set against a world prison population of 10.75 million).

Prison population rates vary considerably between different regions of the world, and between different parts of the same continent. For example:

••in Africa the median rate for western African countries is 47.5 whereas for southern African countries it is 219;

••in the Americas the median rate for south American countries is 175 whereas for Caribbean countries it is 357.5;

••in Asia the median rate for south central Asian countries (mainly the Indian sub-continent) is 42 whereas for eastern Asian countries it is 155.5;

••in Europe the median rate for western European countries is 96 whereas for the countries spanning Europe and Asia (e.g. Russia & Turkey) it is 228.

••in Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) the median rate is 135.

Prison populations are growing in all five continents.

Updated information on countries included in previous editions of the World Prison Population List shows that prison populations have risen in 78% of countries (in 71% of countries in Africa, 82% in the Americas, 80% in Asia, 74% in Europe and 80% in Oceania).