Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2011


Since the mid-1970s, the United States (U.S.) has seen a continuous rise in the rates of incarceration. Prior to the 1970s, the rate of incarceration had remained relatively steady at an average of 110 inmates per 100,000 residents for over half a century (Tonry, 2001). Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. incarceration rates have increased by a minimum of 35,000 each year, with the average year bringing in between 55,000 and 75,000 new inmates (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003). Contrasting the U.S. rates with those of other countries clearly demonstrates that the U.S. is a major outlier among its peers with respect to incarceration. For example, the U.S. has an incarceration rate of 743 inmates per 100,000 citizens, compared to 117 in Canada, 111 in Italy, and 152 in England and Wales (International Centre for Prison Studies, 2011). This proliferation in the rates of incarceration has occurred despite relatively level crime rates over the last four decades (Dixon, 2005).

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