the bureau of Justice statistics has released midyear 2005 incarceration numbers. since june 30, 2004, imprisonment has risen by about 1.6 percent, while jail populations grew by 4.7 percent. women now make up 7 percent of the prison population and 13 percent of jail inmates. louisiana and georgia incarcerate the greatest percentage of their residents (with more than 1 percent in prison or jail), while maine and minnesota have the lowest rates (with about 0.3 percent of their state residents incarcerated).

nevertheless, even low incarceration states look high in international perspective. roy walmsley’s latest world population list helps put these numbers in context. japan’s rate is 58 per 100,000, norway’s rate is 65, germany’s is 96, saudi arabia’s is 110, canada’s is 116, england’s is 142, mexico’s is 182. you get the idea.

based on the 2005 data, the u.s. will continue to lead the world with a rate of 738 per 100,000 residents, outdistancing up-and-comers such as Belarus, (532 per 100,000), Turkmenistan (489), Cuba (487), Suriname (437), and South Africa (413).

walmsley’s analysis shows great heterogeneity within and across continents:

• the median rate for western African countries is 52 whereas for southern African countries it is 324;
• the median rate for south American countries is 152 whereas for Caribbean countries it is 324;
• the median rate for south central Asian countries (mainly the Indian sub-continent) is 55 whereas for (ex-Soviet) central Asian countries it is 386;
• the median rate for southern European countries is 80 whereas for central and eastern European countries it is 184;
• in Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) the median rate is 111.

criminologists have predicted a “leveling off” in u.s. incarceration for several years now, but we continue to see non-trivial increases in both the number (56,428 more inmates than last year) and rate (from 725 to 738 per 100,000) of incarceration. both represent all-time records.