Home > Drug War > South Dakota has the 16th highest incarceration rate in the US.. and the world

South Dakota has the 16th highest incarceration rate in the US.. and the world

June 24, 2014

Recently the Prison Policy Initiative created a chart showing the incarceration rate of countries around the world along with each state of the US as a comparison (their site seems to be having problems right now, if the link doesn’t work here is the cached version). This chart does not look good for South Dakota or the United States.

Here is a view of the top 16 incarceration rates:

Chart Source: Prison Policy Initiative

Chart Source: Prison Policy Initiative

Here are some takeaway numbers from the whole chart. It should be noted that these figures represent the number of people incarcerated per 100,000 people. These figures include local, state, and federal incarceration numbers.

  • The top incarceration honors go to Louisiana with a rate of 1341!
  • South Dakota has an incarceration rate of 777, nothing for us to be proud of.
  • The US incarceration rate is 716.
  • The next lowest country is Cuba with an incarceration rate of 510. I would however recommend taking this number with a grain of salt. These numbers are what each country officially releases; and Cuba has a long history of locking people up for political reasons. It is unknown if these numbers include such cases.
  • The lowest incarceration rate for a US state is Vermont with 254.
  • The United Kingdom-England & Wales has an incarceration rate of 148.
  • Another questionable number on the chart is China with a rate of 121. I would have the same concern with these official numbers as with Cuba.
  • Canada is way below the US with an incarceration rate of 118.
  • Comoros is at the very bottom of the list with an incarceration rate of 16.

The incarceration rate I’m seeing for South Dakota is shameful! As a libertarian I am often trying to make the case that victim-less crimes do nothing but create criminals out of normal people. I would suggest that the failed war on drugs is large part of our over-use of incarceration. Unfortunately this trend seems unlikely to reverse itself. Here in South Dakota the Attorney General is proud of locking up people who committed victim-less crimes and has vowed to do even more! I guess having the 16th highest incarceration rate in the world isn’t enough for the AG….

I was sent a link to this infographic over at SecurityDegreeHub a while back. Perhaps it has a place in this discussion as well:

Infographic Source: securitydegreehub.com

Infographic Source: securitydegreehub.com


  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    June 24, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Right on the mark again, Ken.

  2. June 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    This issue definitely needs to be addressed in the Governors race. Many people that are imprisoned are non-violent offenders. I saw a judge sentence a 19 year old who was working full-time and supporting his baby to 4 years in prison for a marijuana charge. Absolutely uncalled for. This is such a racket. The prison industrial complex are making millions. Ken, you are bringing out some great issues. I would love to hear your opinion on what should be done with this problem in SD. Would you be in favor of decriminalizing marijuana?

    • Merlyn Schutterle
      June 25, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      When are our politicians going to get rid of their phobias? Th problem is that they probably have voter support on this issue.

      How are you going to handle this on MIke’s campaign. I not going to smoke any, but I don’t care who does. I don’t know how the Republicans get away with this. Aren’t they the ones who gripe about government control over our personal lives.

  3. June 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Mike Myers is for the legalization of medical marijuana, prescribed by a Dr. He is also for the legalization of agricultural and industrial hemp. That’s a good start and it sets himself apart from the other 2 candidates. He is also the only candidate that has a solution to Obama care. Being the former CEO at Mayo/St. Mary’s in Rochester and having taught at the School of Law and Business at USD for 26 years, he will be an advocate for the people instead of the healthcare Insurance Industry.

  4. June 27, 2014 at 5:06 am

    Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    Sorry to SoDakLiberty – I’ve been out and about and it took me a few days to get around to reblogging this piece!

  5. mike
    June 27, 2014 at 7:33 am

    There is progress on this. At the beginning of this year, parole and probation began doing month for month good time… Historically it’s been rather difficult for those on parole to stay out of prison but this positive change gives added motivation to stay out of trouble for the duration of their parole/Probation which can be halfed with good behavior. Also first time drug offenders are no longer being sent to prison but treatment instead and there is now drug court. From what i understand this all pretty much came with Obama cutting funding for inmates in south Dakota which is unfortunate because it essentially says that the state of south Dakota will imprison people for profit. Now whether or not drugs should all be legalized (I’m in this camp, including ending the insane prescription necessity for pain meds and anti biotics–a drug is a drug after all) at least progress is being made.

    • June 28, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Yeah, drug courts are an interesting solution, but I’m not sure if they are solving anything. In other states there have been problems with such courts putting a high financial burden (of testing) on those going through the program and losing a lot of rights; sometimes more than if they had stayed in actual prison. Our drug court system is still pretty young to see if we are having the same problems other states are. I do think its good the state is trying another approach, I just am not sure it is the right approach.

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