September 9, 2021 Editor

States of Incarceration

The Global Context 2021

by Emily Widra and Tiana Herring   Tweet this

September 2021

WN: My strongest statement about the horrors of worldwide incarceration and penal abolition is here: Restorative Justice: Peacemaking Not Warmaking; Transformative Justice: Penal Abolitionism Not Prison Reform. It was done for The Kenarchy Journal, Volume 2, Article. For the full PDF, please click on the above.

Please also see much more on this site about incarceration and Transformative/Restorative Justice.

As you may see in the Kenarchy article, we humans are a grotesquely scapegoating species! Is there a way out? Brilliant social critic and anthropologist René Girard, together with many writers/scholars/activists in touch with his work, argues yes. A recent noted work, that also incorporates the work of Ivan Illich, is: Life at the End of Us Vs Them: Cross Culture Stories by Canadian Marcus Peter Rempel.

You are encouraged to learn and think through these issues; and as you can, to act. Discuss with me further if wished, by clicking here: Contact Me.


Louisiana once again has the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., unseating Oklahoma to return to its long-held position as “the world’s prison capital.” By comparison, states like New York and Massachusetts appear progressive, but even these states lock people up at higher rates than nearly every other country on earth. Compared to the rest of the world, every U.S. state relies too heavily on prisons and jails to respond to crime.

In fact, many of the countries that rank alongside the least punitive U.S. states, such as Turkey, Thailand, Rwanda, and Russia, have authoritarian governments or have recently experienced large-scale internal armed conflicts. Others struggle with “violent crime” on a scale far beyond that in the U.S.: South Africa, Panama, Costa Rica, and Brazil all have murder rates

more than double that of the U.S. Yet the U.S., “the land of the free,” tops them all.

But how does the U.S. compare to countries that have stable democratic governments and comparable crime rates? Next to our closest international peers, our use of incarceration is off the charts:


For four decades, the U.S. has been engaged in a globally unprecedented experiment to make every part of its criminal justice system more expansive and more punitive. As a result, incarceration has become the nation’s default response to crime, with, for example, 70 percent of convictions resulting in confinement — far more than other developed nations with comparable crime rates.

Our new analysis of incarceration rates and crime rates across the world reveals that the U.S.’s high incarceration rates are not a rational response to high crime rate, but rather a politically expedient response to public fears and perceptions about crime and violence.

Please click on: States of Incarceration

Visits: 105


Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.