Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice

2014 Edition
| Editors: Gerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd

Historical and Comparative Perspectives on Incarceration

  • Matthew DeMichele
  • Janet P. Stamatel
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5690-2_498


The US incarceration rate is exceptional in a number of respects. First, the USA has the highest number of people imprisoned (over two million) and the highest imprisonment rate in the world (730 per 100,000 national population) as of 2010. The number of people imprisoned in the USA is almost double that of China, which is ranked second on this measure, and more than ten times that of most Western countries. Other countries ranked highest in the number of people incarcerated include Russia, Brazil, India, and Iran (International Centre for Prison Statistics 2013). There is certainly something paradoxical about the USA, a democratic country that is a global hallmark of freedom and civil liberties, imprisoning more citizens than authoritarian regimes that are often criticized for human rights abuses.

This US exceptionalism has received a great deal of attention in the criminal justice literature as researchers have tried to explain mass incarceration in the USA in terms of...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Justice Center for Research, Department of SociologyPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA