Texas isn't even number one but the state has more prisoners in it than the combined enrollment of the University of Texas, Texas A&M and University of Houston. Almost 3% of all Americans have served time in prison making it one of the highest rates in the world.
Business Insider reports the costs of Louisiana prisons:
Meanwhile, taxpayers spend about $663 million a year to provide food, housing, security and medical care for the state's 40,000 inmates — including $24 million a year caring for between 300 and 400 infirm inmates — with $182 million of it going to for-profit prisons run by sheriffs or private companies.
According to 24/7 Wall Street
But higher crime rates do not tell the whole story. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., John Roman, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, explained that each state’s policies on enforcement are a major factor. “It really is a political choice,” he said.
There are several sentencing policies that can dramatically increase the number of inmates in a state’s prison system. According to Roman, such policy is mandatory minimum sentencing, which requires a minimum predetermined prison sentence length, regardless of the circumstances of the crime, tend to have larger prison populations. Roman also pointed to three-strikes laws, which impose much longer sentences on criminals who have committed three or more serious crimes.
“Take Texas,” said Roman. “Texas has some of the safest cities in America. You wouldn’t expect it to have a high incarceration rate, but it is third in the country.” Texas was notably the first state to adopt a three-strikes law. Most of the states on this list, he added, have a history of policies that are harsher on crime. For example, while much of the Northeast has begun to relax drug enforcement policies, the states on this list have kept strict drug enforcement in place.
To identify the states sending the most people to prison, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states that had the most inmates in each state’s prison jurisdiction per 100,000 residents. The data come from Bureau of Justice Statistics’ “Prisoners in 2012” report. To be in a state’s jurisdiction, a prisoner needed to be sentenced within the state, not necessarily incarcerated there. We also reviewed educational attainment, income and poverty statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2011. We also considered state crime rates from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, also for 2011. All data was for the most recent available period.
Here are the five states with the most prisoners per capita according to 24/7 Wall Street:
- Sentenced prisoners: 893 per 100,000 residents
- Total sentenced prisoners: 41,246 (9th most)
- Violent crime rate: 555.3 per 100,000 (7th highest)
- Poverty rate: 20.4% (3rd highest)
No state had a higher incarceration rate than Louisiana, with 893 people behind bars for every 100,000 residents. The majority of Louisiana inmates were locked up in private facilities, which has given the state far less incentive to reduce the prison population than most other states. Louisiana had the seventh-highest violent crime rate in the country in 2011, with more than 555 crimes committed for every 100,000 residents. The state had the highest murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate, as well as the fifth-highest aggravated assault rate. However, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the state had a much lower percentage of inmates serving sentences for violent crime and a much higher percentage serving sentences for drug offenses than the nation as a whole.
- Sentenced prisoners: 717 per 100,000 residents
- Total sentenced prisoners: 21,426 (21st most)
- Violent crime rate: 269.8 per 100,000 (18th lowest)
- Poverty rate: 22.6% (the highest)
Even as the prison population declined across the country, it increased in Mississippi. Between 2011 and 2012 it grew 4.1%, a faster rate of growth than all but two other states. Although the $41.51 daily cost to house an inmate in the state is well below the national average of $65.41, the state’s corrections system is still $30 million in the hole for the 2013 fiscal year. Much of that is due to inmate growth. A hefty 22.6% of Mississippi’s population lived below the poverty line in 2011, the highest poverty rate in the country. Mississippi tied with Texas for the highest percentage in the country of adults who have not completed high school, at 18.9%.
- Sentenced prisoners: 650 per 100,000 residents
- Total sentenced prisoners: 31,437 (13th most)
- Violent crime rate: 420.1 per 100,000 (16th highest)
- Poverty rate: 19.0% (tied for 7th highest)
With 650 prisoners for every 100,000 residents, Alabama’s incarceration rate stayed exactly the same in 2012 as it was in 2011. Crime rates were higher in Alabama than most other states. The state had the fifth-highest property crime rate in 2011, with more than 3,600 crimes committed per 100,000 residents. Among property crimes, the state had the third-highest burglary rate. In addition, the violent crime rate was among the top third of all states. More than 17% of the state’s adult population lacked a high school diploma as of 2011, higher than all but four other states. Alabama also had one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, with 19% of people living below the poverty line.
- Sentenced prisoners: 648 per 100,000 residents
- Total sentenced prisoners: 24,830 (17th most)
- Violent crime rate: 454.8 per 100,000 (11th highest)
- Poverty rate: 17.2% (16th highest)
Oklahoma housed 648 inmates serving sentences per 100,000 residents in 2012, up from 632 in 2011. There were 127 female prisoners in 2012 for every 100,000 female residents, the highest incarceration rate in the country and up from 122 in 2011. The state has become increasingly dependent on private prisons, with about 23% of the prison population serving sentences in a private facility. The move toward private prisons can limit the motivation of the state to cut down on the prison population because the state typically pays much less to hire private companies than to fund the prisons directly. Oklahoma was in the top third of all states for both violent and property crime. Specifically, the state ranked among the top 10 in both aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft.
- Sentenced prisoners: 601 per 100,000 residents
- Total sentenced prisoners: 157,900 (the most)
- Violent crime rate: 408.5 per 100,000 (18th highest)
- Poverty rate: 18.5% (11th highest)
Texas had more prisoners in its jurisdiction than any other state, with nearly 158,000 inmates as of 2012. However, the incarceration rate dropped 3.5%, compared to a decline of 1.7% across the country. Experts have attributed the decrease, at least in part, to policies that have moved some lower-level offenders into alternative sentencing programs. Like most states on this list, Texas had a disproportionate share of at-risk individuals. Nearly 19% of the state’s adult population did not have a high school diploma, tied with Mississippi for the highest rate in the country. The 2011 poverty rate of 18.5% was also higher than the 15.9% across the United States.
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