The US leads in mass incarceration, having 20% of the world's 11.5 million prison population. In the last 40 years alone, there has been a 500% increase in the number of people behind bars.

These shocking facts about the US incarceration system call for scrutiny. In this article, we will cover the latest USA prison statistics, including:

  • State and Federal Prisoner Statistics
  • Mass Incarceration Statistics
  • US Prison Cost Statistics

Let's dig into the numbers and other related facts!

Editor's Choice

  • 2 million people are incarcerated in the US. 
  • 43% of federal prisoners are drug offenders. 
  • The US ranks first in mass incarceration among the Founding NATO nations.
  • 51% of prison inmates are African-American or Latino.
  • 48,000 minors are incarcerated in the US. 
  • 2 in 3 Americans with substance abuse problems get no treatment upon entering prison.
  • Wyoming has more prisons and jails than colleges. 
  • There are 6,364 detention and rehabilitation centers in the US. 
  • The US spends $81 billion on mass incarceration annually. 
  • With 133,172 prisoners, Texas has the highest number of incarcerated people.

How Many People Are Incarcerated in the US?

In the US, about 1.9 million people are in prison. There are 803,000 people on parole (early release before sentence completion), and 2.9 million are still on probation (court-ordered supervision).

Suppose the US prison population were a city; it would rank among the top 10 largest nationwide! Although prisons make people feel safer, mass incarceration is a serious issue.

To understand the problem, let's investigate where and why millions of Americans are in prison. The following statistics will shed light on this.

State and Federal Prisoner Statistics

The US has more state prisons than federal ones, but federal prisons are usually more secure. Because state prisons have more violent inmates, people view them as less safe.

Here are the most recent numbers on state and federal prisoners:

1. There are 6,364 detention and rehabilitation centers in the US. 

(Prison Policy Initiative)

The United States lacks a unified criminal justice system. Instead, tens of thousands of federal, state, and local justice systems exist. 

Collectively, these facilities house prisoners at the 6364 detention and rehabilitation center. Here's the breakdown of the facilities:

  • 1,566 state prisons
  • 98 federal prisons
  • 3,116 local jails
  • 1,323 juvenile correctional facilities
  • 181 immigration detention facilities
  • 80 Indian country jails

2. Federal and state correctional inmates were 93% men and 6.9% women. 

(Statista, Bureau of Justice Statistics)

In 2021, state and federal prisons held 1,120,973 men and 83,349 women. It is down from the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, white females aged 18–19 had the highest imprisonment rate disparity.

3. Half of the prisoners in the US are incarcerated in state prisons. 

(Prison Policy Initiative)

About 1,047,000 prisoners are locked up in 1,566 state prisons, while 514,000 are in local jails. Here are the top five places where US prisoners were jailed:

  • State Prisons: 1,047,000 prisoners
  • Local Jails: 514,000 prisoners
  • Federal Prisons and Jails: 209,000 prisoners
  • Immigration Detention: 34,000 prisoners
  • Involuntary Commitment: 22,000 prisoners

4. 41% of military prisoners were held for violent sexual offenses. 

(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

In 2020, 41% of the 1,068 military detainees served sentences for violent sexual offenses and 17% for other violent crimes.

5. 3 out of 5 state prison inmates are violent offenders.

(The Sentencing Project)

Approximately 62% of people convicted and sent to state prison were guilty of a violent crime, up from 30% in 1970.

6. 43% of the prisoners in federal prisons are drug offenders. 


Unlike the larger state prison system, about half of the federal prisoners are there for drug offenses. 1.16 million Americans faced arrest for selling, manufacturing, or possessing illegal drugs.

7. 66% of Hispanics incarcerated in state facilities committed violent crimes.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

In 2019, 66% of Hispanic inmates in state prisons were there for a violent crime, compared to:

  • 64% of black inmates
  • 62% of Asian inmates, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders
  • 56% of American Indian and Alaska Native inmates
  • 50% of white inmates

8. Private prisons held 15,800 fewer people in 2020. 

(Bureau of Justice Statistics, TIME Magazine)

In 2020, 158 private prisons held 15,800 fewer individuals under contract to state or federal governments. Private prisons, used for cost-saving, also have longer inmate stays than state-run facilities.

9. There are 48,000 incarcerated minors in the US. 

(Prison Policy Initiative)

In 2019, the US imprisoned more than 48,000 youth in juvenile justice. Most were held in prison-like facilities, and thousands were detained without trial.

10. 20% of jail inmates and 15% of state prison inmates have a severe mental illness. 

(Treatment Advocacy Center)

In 2014, approximately 383,000 individuals with severe psychiatric disorders were behind bars in the US. Some of the reasons why mentally ill people end up in jail are:

  • Lack of long-term hospitalization options
  • Inadequate community support for mentally ill people
  • Criminal justice inmates have trouble getting mental health treatment
  • Law enforcement prefers criminal justice over mental health for deviant behavior

Mass Incarceration Statistics

The US criminal justice system imprisons a significant portion of its population in federal, state, and local prisons. Mass incarceration threatens human rights, particularly those of people of color.

Here are the latest statistics you should keep an eye on:

11. Two million people are incarcerated in the US. 

(Prison Policy Initiative)

The US is dubiously known as the world's prison capital. On any given day, there are 2 million people incarcerated in US prisons. Additionally, 73% of released prisoners face rearrest within five years.

12. More than 7 out of 10 people who are in prison are unconvicted. 

(Bureau of Justice Statistics) 

71% (451,400) of held prisoners had not been declared guilty. The remaining 29% (185,000 prisoners) were convicted, serving a term, or awaiting sentences. 

13. The US imprisons 530 per 100,000 people. 

(World Prison Brief)

The US has one of the world's highest incarceration rates. Here is the ranking of six countries with the highest incarceration rate per 100,000 people:



Incarceration rate per 100,000 people


El Salvador

1, 086











American Samoa



United States


14. The US ranks first in mass incarceration among the Founding NATO nations. 

(Prison Policy Initiative)

The US leads in mass incarceration, followed by the UK and Portugal. Here are the other Founding NATO nations with the highest incarceration rate per 100,000 people:

Incarceration among the Founding NATO nations

15. 43% of black male and 42% of Hispanic male prisoners in the US are aged 18–34.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Black men (43%) and Hispanics (42%) comprised the majority of 18–34-year-old prisoners in 2020. There were others in the same age range.

  • 39% of American Indians and Alaska Native males
  • 36% of Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander males
  • 32% of white males

16. 51% of prison inmates are African-American or Latino.

(The Sentencing Project,

The US prison system has significant racial and ethnic disparities. Blacks and Latinos comprise 30% of the US population and 51% of the prison population.

17. 41% of Americans think the US justice system must be more rigid. 


The percentage of Americans who think the US criminal justice system is not rigid enough on crime has dropped by half since Gallup first measured it in 1992 at 83%.

18. 2/3 of prisoners with substance abuse problems received no treatment.


In 2019, 2 out of 3 state prison inmates with an addictive substance use disorder hadn't received any treatment since admission. Moreover, 22 out of every 100,000 people who died in a state jail were drunk or high on drugs.

19. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate among all the states. 

(Prison Policy Initiative)

Louisiana, the "world's prison capital," had 1,094 prisoners per 100,000 people in 2021. Massachusetts has the lowest incarceration rate in the US, with 275 prisoners per 100,000.

20. With 133,172 prisoners, Texas has the highest number of incarcerated people. 


Texas had the most convicts in the US in 2021. Here are the other states with the highest number of prisoners:



Number of Prisoners


29.53 million



39.24 million



21.78 million



10.8 million



11.78 million


21. Wyoming has more prisons and jails than colleges. 


Wyoming has only four colleges and 28 prisons and jails. It's a 600% difference between the number of universities that grant degrees and correctional facilities.

US Prison Cost Statistics

Prison operations and paying correctional officials comprise most of each state's corrections budget. Some states fund drug treatment centers, rehabilitation programs, and juvenile justice initiatives.

That said, let's dive into the cost statistics:

22. The US spends $81 billion on mass incarceration annually.


The Bureau of Justice reports $80.7 billion in federal, state, and local correctional spending, including:

  • Prisons
  • Jails
  • Juvenile institutions
  • Probation and parole
  • Immigration detention

23. An average of $20,000–$50,000 is spent on each prisoner annually. 


Local, state, and federal governments spend between $20,000 and $50,000 on incarceration. It is because prisons must always provide the following:

  • Adequate levels of security
  • Administrative Staff 
  • Food and electricity 
  • Recreation and education
  • Infrastructure maintenance
  • Operational costs
  • Health care

24. Almost 4 out of 10 Americans support investing more in law enforcement. 


34% of Americans believe in law enforcement. 63% want the government to invest in social and economic issues like drug addiction, homelessness, and mental health.

25. Local jails have spent $25 billion. 


In 2017, jail costs rose 13% to $25 billion, exceeding the 9% increase in local expenditures. Jails received 84 cents of every local corrections dollar during that time.

26. In 2021, $5.4 billion was spent incarcerating adults convicted of child sex crimes. 

(John Hopkins)

In the same year, state prisons held 127,282 child sex offenders. The average annual cost per person was $34,191, with total state spending of $4.4 billion.

The Bottom Line

Given the daunting statistics in this article, the need to rethink how the US justice system responds to crime is more crucial than ever.

Legislators and the public must carefully examine the current justice system. The question lies in whether mass incarceration serves legitimate social goals.