I’ve been enjoying how incarceration rates, politics, and alternatives are dominating the news today. I don’t follow this conversation closely so it’s been good to see some numbers and hear the different perspectives.

When I first started listening, last night, I heard the numbers presented as totals on CNN, like this list from the International Centre for Prison Studies:

1 United States of America 2,239,751
2 China 1,640,000
3 Russian Federation 686,200

That probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. But, I thought, the real question is how dangerous do we think we are compared to other countries. Or, perhaps, how evil do we think we are…

So I looked up the incarceration rates per capita, which, to be fair to the media, is how almost everyone is displaying the data. Here are the same countries (Plus Canada. My wife is Canadian so I like to make comparisons between the US and Canada.) picked out of a chart on Wikipedia:

Rank Country (or dependent territory) Prisoners per
100,000
population
1  United States 716
8  Russia 484
124  China 121 or 170[2]
133  Canada 114

Apparently, here in the land of the free, we consider each other somewhere between 4 and 6 times as dangerous as they do in that repressive regime, China. And well over 6 times as dangerous as Canadians consider themselves. What do you think, Canadians? Are you 1/6 as dangerous as we are?

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