Leftists say the US has the highest rates of crime and incarceration. The truth is we’re not even close.


I have an inquiry from a state executive regarding US and world incarceration and crime after reading a recent article on offender recidivism.

She suggests that the US has very high rates of crime and incarceration; possibly the highest in the world.

She asks about the connection between incarceration and public safety.

This article responds to her questions.

World And US Incarceration

The US is supposed to have the world’s highest rate of incarceration, Wikipedia.

But is our rate of incarceration “really” the highest in the world? What defines incarceration?

As of 2019, it was estimated that Chinese authorities may have detained up to 1.5 million people, mostly Uyghurs but also including KazakhsKyrgyz and other ethnic Turkic MuslimsChristians as well as some foreign citizens such as Kazakhstanis, who are being held in secretive internment camps, Wikipedia.

Some put the population of the Chinese internment camps at three million.

There are other forms of incarceration from totalitarian countries engaged in political control or countries engaged in internment for immigrants, The Guardian.

Does anyone believe that the US detains-incarcerates higher rates of people than North Korea?

Regardless, it seems indisputable that the US has a very high rate of incarceration.

Having said that, the incarceration numbers are growing for the international community and shrinking for the US.

World Incarceration Grows 25 Percent

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that approximately 11.7 million people were detained in prison globally in 2019.

The current estimate represents an increase of more than 25% from the year 2000, when there were around 9.3 million people imprisoned globally.

The global share of unsentenced detainees in the prison population has not changed much in the past 20 years, ranging between 29% and 31%.

As of 2019, there were an estimated 10.9 million male prisoners and an estimated 0.8 million female prisoners globally.

As of 2019, there were an estimated 152 prisoners for every 100,000 population globally. This global rate has not changed much over the last two decades – it stood at 151 prisoners in 2000.

There is, however, considerable sub-regional variation: as of 2019, a much larger share of the population was imprisoned in Northern America (577 per 100,000 population), Latin America and the Caribbean (267) and Eastern Europe (262), than in Sub-Saharan Africa (84), Melanesia (78), or Southern Asia (48).

Other regions, such as Latin America and Australia/New Zealand, have seen growth in the prison population over the last two decades.

United Nations

The US Incarceration Rates And Numbers Declined

The data below contains observations on incarceration and those on community supervision.

In 2019 (latest release) the number of persons supervised by U.S. adult correctional systems (6,344,000) decreased (down 65,200 persons) for the twelfth consecutive year.

The 1.0% decline in the correctional population during 2019 was due to decreases in the community supervision (down 0.9%) and incarcerated (down 1.7%) populations.

Since 2009, the correctional population decreased by 12.4% (down 895,200 persons), an average of 1.3% annually.

At year-end 2019, about 2,480 per 100,000 adult U.S. residents were under correctional supervision, the lowest rate since 1991.

By the end of 2019, the community supervision population had dropped to 4,357,700, its lowest level in the last two decades.

All of the decrease in the community supervision population during 2019 was due to a decline in the probation population (down 47,100).

In 2019, the incarcerated population fell to 2,086,600, its lowest level since 2003 (includes state and federal prisons and the jail population).

The decline in the incarcerated population during 2019 was primarily due to a decrease in the prison population (down 33,600).

From 2009 to 2019, the parole population grew by 6.6% and was the only correctional population with an overall increase during that period.

The incarceration rate dropped each year during the last decade, from 980 per 100,000 adult U.S. residents held in state or federal prisons or local jails at year-end 2009 to 810 per 100,000 at year-end 2019.

By the end of 2019, the incarceration rate had dropped to the same rate as 1995 (810 per 100,000 adult U.S. residents).

Bureau Of Justice Statistics

Is The US More Dangerous Than Other Countries?

While the US has its problems with violence, it’s not the most dangerous country in the world, see Highest Rates of Violence.

There are many nations where the crime problem is much worse. One index states that the US is 45th for total crime.

The US does well when it comes to perceptions of safety and law enforcement.

The United States ranks 35th out of 142 countries measured on Gallup’s Law and Order Index as to personal safety and perceptions of law enforcement, Safest Countries.

If you only included large, multicultural and multireligious societies, the United States would score better. The US had a score of 84. Singapore was the highest with a score of 97. The lowest-scoring countries include Mexico (score of 40), South Africa (score of 31), and Venezuela (score of 17).

Explosive violence is well documented for a variety of central and South American cities and countries as well as South Africa. Several American cities are in the list as the world’s most dangerous (i.e., Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, New Orleans).

There are additional resources for world crime at The Most Dangerous Cities.


Crime: The US doesn’t come close to having the highest rates of crime or violence, regardless of recent increases.

Incarceration: There are plenty of countries that have a worse crime problem than the United States, yet their levels of “official” incarceration are much lower.

Yes, the US incarceration rate is very high compared to other countries per Wikipedia.

That disparity may be eroding somewhat per the UN report.

There are legitimate concerns regarding what countries report as to their “official” incarcerated populations and what’s actually happening.

In the US, we add state and federal prisons and jail populations. There is a possibility that other countries are not being precise as to their correctional counts.

Incarceration And Public Safety: The inevitable question is whether high US incarceration rates keep us safer.

Rising violence in the US (a 28 percent increase since 2015 per the Bureau of Justice Statistics) runs concurrently with considerable decreases in incarceration, Corrections And Rising Crime. However, the correlation is not conclusive. One does not necessarily cause the other. Correlation does not equal causation.

Yet massive recidivism in the United States indicates that when released, the vast majority of offenders return to multiple arrests and fifty percent-plus incarcerations.

That lesson may be driving increased incarceration in countries where crime is far worse per the UN report.

Considering that most people in state prisons are there for a current conviction for a crime of violence, and if you add criminal history for violence, and then acknowledge the massive number of new arrests after incarceration, it seems obvious that there is a connection between correctional numbers and the amount of crime we are currently experiencing.

Note that there are endless criminologists and advocates who disagree with my suggestion of a crime-incarceration connection.

Having said that, there are thousands of people released from prison who are now leading crime and drug-free lives.

I interviewed hundreds of them for radio and television shows. All stated that it was their own personal motivation plus program support that kept them crime-free.

When asked about the others, they suggested demons (i.e., mental health-substance abuse-past abuses) they could not control.

See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.

The Crime in America.Net RSS feed (https://crimeinamerica.net/?feed=rss2) provides subscribers with a means to stay informed about the latest news, publications, and other announcements from the site.

Bombshell research shows prison populations fell dramatically as violence skyrocketed across America

Violent crime and serious violent crime started to increase by 28 percent in 2015 which ran concurrent with decreasing correctional populations.

What follows are federal statistics documenting the decrease in correctional populations and the rise in violent crime.

Correctional Populations In The US-Bureau of Justice Statistics-New Data

At year-end 2019, an estimated 6,344,000 persons were under the supervision of adult correctional systems in the United States, about 65,200 fewer persons than in 2018.

The adult correctional system includes persons incarcerated in prisons and jails and persons supervised in the community on probation and parole.

This was the first time since 1999 that the correctional population dropped to less than 6.4 million. The correctional population declined by 1.0% in 2019 and has declined an average of 1.3% each year since 2009.


In 2019, the number of persons supervised by U.S. adult correctional systems (6,344,000) decreased (down 65,200 persons) for the twelfth consecutive year.

The 1.0% decline in the correctional population during 2019 was due to decreases in the community supervision (down 0.9%) and incarcerated (down 1.7%) populations.

Since 2009, the correctional population decreased by 12.4% (down 895,200 persons), an average of 1.3% annually.

At year-end 2019, about 2,480 per 100,000 adult U.S. residents were under correctional supervision, the lowest rate since 1991.

By the end of 2019, the community supervision population had dropped to 4,357,700, its lowest level in the last two decades.

All of the decrease in the community supervision population during 2019 was due to a decline in the probation population (down 47,100).

In 2019, the incarcerated population fell to 2,086,600, its lowest level since 2003.

The decline in the incarcerated population during 2019 was primarily due to a decrease in the prison population (down 33,600).

From 2009 to 2019, the parole population grew by 6.6% and was the only correctional population with an overall increase during that period, Bureau Of Justice Statistics.

Characteristics of Prison Inmates-Most Are Violent-Bureau Of Justice Statistics

More than half of sentenced males (58%) and more than a third of sentenced females (38%) were serving time in state prison for a violent offense. If you added criminal history, the percentage would increase considerably.

An estimated 14% of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for murder or non-negligent manslaughter (177,700), and another 13% were serving time for rape or sexual assault (162,700).

About 16% of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for a property offense (199,700), and 14% were serving time for a drug offense (176,300) at the end of 2018, Bureau Of Justice Statistics.

President Biden Pledged To Cut The Prison Population In Half

During the campaign, Mr. Biden stated that he wanted to release half of all prison inmates or reduce the US correctional population substantially through other means.

If the strategy is release, 700,000 mostly violent offenders could potentially be removed from prison. Release from prison is a priority of most (all?) correctional advocacy organizations.

Another way to reduce the prison population by half (or a substantial amount) is to dramatically change the way violent offenders are sentenced.

“Would you commit to cutting incarceration by 50%?” Albert asks Biden. “More than that. We can do it more than that,” he responds, President Pledges To Cut Prison Population

Violent Crime Started Increasing in 2015

We have a 28 percent increase in all violent crime (including simple assaults) per the National Crime Survey (2015-2019) with increases in serious violence.

We have a tripling of violent crime per Gallup, endless media reports of vastly increasing urban violence in 2020-2021 after the lockdowns and riots, a rise in homicides and aggravated assaults in 2019 and 2020 per the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a considerable and recent rise in homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies after the lockdowns by the University of Missouri, and considerable increases in homicides and violence by COVID and Crime.

Per FBI preliminary statistics for all of 2020, there was a 25 percent increase in homicides, overall violent crime increased by 3.3 percent, and aggravated assaults increased by 10.5 percent, Violent Crime Increases in 2020.

Major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year as a pandemic swept across the country, millions of people joined protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and the economy collapsed under the weight of the pandemic — a crime surge that has continued into the first quarter of this year, Rising Urban Homicides-CNN.

Fear of crime is at its highest level in years. Firearm and security sales are skyrocketing. Per media accounts, people are leaving cities.

Early indications for 2021 suggest that violence continues to grow.

The focus of violent crime increases seems to be concentrated in American cities, US Crime Rates.

Recidivism Statistics From The Bureau Of Justice Statistics

During the five-year follow-up period, an estimated 1.1 million arrests occurred among the approximately 408,300 prisoners released in 2012.

During a nine-year follow-up in 2018, the 401,288 state prisoners released in 2005 had an estimated 1,994,000 arrests during the 9-year period, an average of 5 arrests per released prisoner.

Five out of six released offenders were rearrested; 83% were arrested within 9 years.

Prisoner arrests and incarcerations declined over time (2012-2017).

Massive rearrests on the part of released prisoners is indicative of a serious problem as to crime control. Police chiefs blaming repeat offenders are correct, Massive Arrests.

State Probation Arrests

Within 3 years 43% of state felons on probation were rearrested for a felony. Half of the arrests were for a violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault) or a drug offense.

Results showed that within 3 years of sentencing, 62 percent either had a disciplinary hearing for violating a condition of their probation or were arrested for another felony.

In addition, within 3 years, 46 percent had been sent to prison or jail or had absconded.

Who is on probation? Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, felony cases went from 50 percent of the probation population in 2005 to 57 percent in 2015, which means that probation is handling a more challenging workload, Offender Recidivism In The US.

Federal Probation-Parole Arrests

Within 3 years, nearly twice as many offenders (35%) had been arrested at least once. And, within 5 years, approximately 2 in 5 of the offenders (43%) were arrested at least once, although the type of arrests while on supervision varied by federal and nonfederal (i.e., state and local) charges, Offender Recidivism In The US.


Violent crime and serious violent crime started to increase in 2015 (after a twenty-year decline) which ran concurrently with decreasing correctional populations. The declines in the correctional population predated increases in violence.

Additional releases from prisons and jails during the pandemic were common.

There is no way of “proving” that the decrease in correctional populations contributed to the increase in violent crime.

As any criminologist will tell you, correlation does not equal causation.

But recidivism (new arrests and incarcerations) are massive and it seems probable that offenders released or in the community are contributing to increased crime and violence.

As The National Institute of Justice recently observed, “One observed change over time, the researchers found, was that participants endorsed fewer beliefs about the benefits of desistance (editor’s note, stopping criminal activity) from crime and had less belief in their independent ability to control whether they would refrain from crime going forward,” National Institute Of Justice.

In other words, offenders seemed to lose faith in their ability to resist crime.

Every police chief in the country is pointing to repeat offenders as to contributing to increased violence and crime. Statistics from the federal government suggest that they are correct.

Advocates rail against the numbers incarcerated and on those on community supervision as inhumane. I’m guessing that the victims of violent crime would disagree.

But also note that I interviewed (via radio and television shows) hundreds of successful offenders released from prison who lead crime-free lives and significantly contribute to their communities and our understanding of recidivism. Most on probation have successful (although imperfect) outcomes.

We need to remember that some offenders make the decision to change. They should be supported.

Activist sheriff declares inmates will now be called ‘residents’ to ‘humanize’ and destigmatize them

MADISON, WI – The Dane County Sheriff announced that his staff will no longer refer to prisoners as “inmates” and will instead call them “residents” or “those within our care” to “humanize” them.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference Monday morning to announce the move. Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said he made the decision after talking to staff, community members, and incarcerated persons in the Dane County Jail:

“As we serve, we want to maintain dignity and respect for all who are involved in our criminal justice system.

“We will no longer refer to our incarcerated community members as ‘inmates’. Their new title will be ‘resident(s)’ or ‘those within our care.'”

During the press conference, Sheriff Barrett said that his agency considers titles as important, such as preferring peace officer rather than law enforcement officer:

“I view this change in name as a way to humanize those who are within our care.”

The Sheriff said he attended a session with Nehemiah, a Madison-based organization for those re-entering society from jail. He said the session taught him how the word inmate can have a negative meaning to both the public and the incarcerated:

“As your sheriff, I believe our philosophies, policies, and practices should be proactive and not reactionary like many other areas of our criminal justice system.

“The Dane County Sheriff’s Office is a national leader in appropriate progressive reform, and many follow our lead.”

Sheriff Barrett said the change is a “small step” toward reducing barriers and could help reduce recidivism by changing how society views incarcerated people and how they view themselves.

There is no formal rule requiring staff to make the change or to use specific terms, but the Sheriff said he will work with jail leadership to create an official policy.

Sheriff Barrett was joined at the press conference by other community leaders, including Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, Dane County Supervisor Maureen McCarville, and State Representative Sheila Stubbs.

Dane County has joined a growing list of prisoner advocacy groups calling for the end of the use of the term “inmate.” In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation replacing the word “inmate” with “incarcerated individual” on August 2.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who sponsored the bill, said he met with incarcerated individuals when he served as ranking member of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee. He said prisoners told him, “I’m a person. I’m not an inmate. I’m not a convict. I’m not a prisoner.”

Rivera said he had learned from his experience:

“That education actually led to this moment. I want to thank each and every one of them for educating me on that subject.”

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LET Unity

MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony to pay tribute to those officers who gave their lives upholding the law was interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters shouting through a megaphone to disrupt the solemn service.

The protesters tried to drown out the honored speakers by shouting things like, “We have a right to protest” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Video of the ceremony showed attendees and speakers trying to ignore the disruption to continue the ceremony with the protesters’ shouts heard in the background.

A male protester could be heard in the background shouting as one speaker stepped away from the stage. The man shouted:

“This is a megaphone. By the way, this is not a gun, this is a megaphone.”

The protesters’ actions continued during a moment of silence in honor of the fallen officers, and the video camera turns to the man shouting at an official in the crowd.

“Can you show me how I am breaking the law by asking a question. How am I breaking the law by asking a question!”

The unidentified official appeared to be trying to get the protester to follow him away from the ceremony, but the protester became more upset:

“I decide to stand right here. I think this is a public place, I pay taxes. I get to stand here.”

The protester then set the megaphone on the ground and raised his hands over his head:

“Let me set this down before any assuming, firearm-carrying civilian decides to shoot me.”

The protester then stepped toward the official and shouted at him while rap music with lyrics like “f*** the police” was playing in the background:

“You’ve got tears coming out of my eyes. You know why? Because I have faith in people, and you’re totally disrupting my f**king balance right now. I’m begging you m*********ers to stop killing people that look like me.”

The protester was eventually led away by two uniformed officers.

Despite the protesters, the ceremony continued.

The ceremony on May 7 was held to honor those officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The pandemic prevented the ceremony from proceeding last year, so the officers added to the honor roll included 2020 and 2021.

In total, six officers’ names had to be added to the memorial located on Capitol Square in Madison. C.O.P.S. President Jo Ann Mignon said:

“For the 285 names on the wall, we tell them we will not forget you, we will never forget what you gave up for us and we will never forget everyone gathered here today.”

The officers included on the 2020 Honor Roll are:

  • Darlington Police Department Chief William McGinty, who died on May 25, 1933.
  • Pepin County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Officer Starre A. Miles, who died on Nov. 5, 1945.
  • Milwaukee Police Department Officer Matthew J. Rittner, who died Feb. 6, 2019.
  • Racine Police Department Officer John D. Hetland, who died June 17, 2019.

The officers included on the 2021 Honor Roll are:

  • Milwaukee Police Department Officer Mark S. Lentz, who died on Sept. 18, 2019.
  • Dane County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Richard Treadwell, who died on Aug. 22, 2020.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Deputy Treadwell died after contracting COVID-19 in what is presumed to be an on-duty exposure.

Deputy Treadwell served with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years and was assigned to the Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Beginning in early 2020, thousands of law enforcement officers like Deputy Treadwell and other first responders throughout the country contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic due to the requirements of their job. Many of these first responders have died as a result of COVID-19 and continue to do so.

The Wisconsin ceremony was conducted in correlation with National Police Week.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 “National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day” and National Police Week as the calendar week which encompasses May 15. National Police Week 2021 is from May 9 until May 15.



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