According to a 2005 report of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the United States—with five percent of the world's population—houses 25 percent of the world's inmates. Our incarceration rate (714 per 100,000 residents) is almost 40 percent greater than those of our nearest competitors (the Bahamas, Belarus, and Russia). Other industrial democracies, even those with significant crime problems of their own, are much less punitive: our incarceration rate is 6.2 times that of Canada, 7.8 times that of France, and 12.3 times that of Japan.
(Via Boston Review)
The JFA Institute recently released a report on the status of U.S. prisons: "Unlocking America." Apparently, there are more than 1.5 million people in federal and state jails, and women represent the fastest-growing portion of the prison population. The report mainly entails answers about why and how to reduce prison population. Glenn Loury's article also outlines a number of reasons for the growth in punitiveness and the rise in prison population.
A fact to consider: the series of recommendations made by the JFA (reducing time served in prison, eliminating the use of prison for parole/probation violators, restoring ex-prisoner voting rights, etc.) would save approximately $20 billion tax dollars a year.