States Sending the Most People to Prison

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5. Texas
> Sentenced prisoners: 601 per 100,000 residents
> Total sentenced prisoners: 157,900 (the most)
> Violent crime rate: 408.5 per 100,000 (18th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (11th highest)

Texas had more prisoners in its jurisdiction than any other state, with nearly 158,000 inmates as of 2012. However, the incarceration rate dropped 3.5%, compared to a decline of 1.7% across the country. Experts have attributed the decrease, at least in part, to policies that have moved some lower-level offenders into alternative sentencing programs. Like most states on this list, Texas had a disproportionate share of at-risk individuals. Nearly 19% of the state’s adult population did not have a high school diploma, tied with Mississippi for the highest rate in the country. The 2011 poverty rate of 18.5% was also higher than the 15.9% across the United States.

4. Oklahoma
> Sentenced prisoners: 648 per 100,000 residents
> Total sentenced prisoners: 24,830 (17th most)
> Violent crime rate: 454.8 per 100,000 (11th highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (16th highest)

Oklahoma housed 648 inmates serving sentences per 100,000 residents in 2012, up from 632 in 2011. There were 127 female prisoners in 2012 for every 100,000 female residents, the highest incarceration rate in the country and up from 122 in 2011. The state has become increasingly dependent on private prisons, with about 23% of the prison population serving sentences in a private facility. The move toward private prisons can limit the motivation of the state to cut down on the prison population because the state typically pays much less to hire private companies than to fund the prisons directly. Oklahoma was in the top third of all states for both violent and property crime. Specifically, the state ranked among the top 10 in both aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft.

3. Alabama
> Sentenced prisoners: 650 per 100,000 residents
> Total sentenced prisoners: 31,437 (13th most)
> Violent crime rate: 420.1 per 100,000 (16th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.0% (tied for 7th highest)

With 650 prisoners for every 100,000 residents, Alabama’s incarceration rate stayed exactly the same in 2012 as it was in 2011. Crime rates were higher in Alabama than most other states. The state had the fifth-highest property crime rate in 2011, with more than 3,600 crimes committed per 100,000 residents. Among property crimes, the state had the third-highest burglary rate. In addition, the violent crime rate was among the top third of all states. More than 17% of the state’s adult population lacked a high school diploma as of 2011, higher than all but four other states. Alabama also had one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, with 19% of people living below the poverty line.

2. Mississippi
> Sentenced prisoners: 717 per 100,000 residents
> Total sentenced prisoners: 21,426 (21st most)
> Violent crime rate: 269.8 per 100,000 (18th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 22.6% (the highest)

Even as the prison population declined across the country, it increased in Mississippi. Between 2011 and 2012 it grew 4.1%, a faster rate of growth than all but two other states. Although the $41.51 daily cost to house an inmate in the state is well below the national average of $65.41, the state’s corrections system is still $30 million in the hole for the 2013 fiscal year. Much of that is due to inmate growth. A hefty 22.6% of Mississippi’s population lived below the poverty line in 2011, the highest poverty rate in the country. Mississippi tied with Texas for the highest percentage in the country of adults who have not completed high school, at 18.9%.

1. Louisiana
> Sentenced prisoners: 893 per 100,000 residents
> Total sentenced prisoners: 41,246 (9th most)
> Violent crime rate: 555.3 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.4% (3rd highest)

No state had a higher incarceration rate than Louisiana, with 893 people behind bars for every 100,000 residents. The majority of Louisiana inmates were locked up in private facilities, which has given the state far less incentive to reduce the prison population than most other states. Louisiana had the seventh-highest violent crime rate in the country in 2011, with more than 555 crimes committed for every 100,000 residents. The state had the highest murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate, as well as the fifth-highest aggravated assault rate. However, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the state had a much lower percentage of inmates serving sentences for violent crime and a much higher percentage serving sentences for drug offenses than the nation as a whole.