Amid soaring home prices and increasing cars, gas, and food costs, it’s easy to forget about other million-dollar markets, like housing defendants awaiting a trial along with those who are found guilty of a crime. While we’re not footing the bill directly, prison costs U.S. taxpayers $80 billion a year.
Yet, all expenses considered, 266 countries have prisons that house over 10 million inmates in total. So, of the populations of prisons around the world, let’s take a look at the 10 countries with the most inmates and the highest prison populations per 100,000 people. We’ll also learn the percentage of incarcerated males and females, all of which you can also find on the map below.
View World’s prison population in a full screen map
Let’s first take a look at the total prison population count. Of the 226 countries on the map, ten are home to over 200,000 prisoners. Some even have an incarceration count near the multi-millions.
- United States – 2,094,000 total prison population
- China – 1,710,000
- Brazil – 759,518
- India – 478,600
- Russia – 469,283
- Thailand – 311,605
- Turkey – 281,094
- Indonesia – 256,051
- Mexico – 215,232
- Philippines – 215,000
The countries above hold the highest population of prisoners, with the most incarcerated in the U.S. America is the only country in the world to total over two million inmates. Many are housed in two of the largest jails: California’s Los Angeles County (inmate population of 19,836) and Rikers Island in New York (13,849 inmates). Along with the U.S., Brazil and Mexico are also home to high prison populations in the Americas.
But while the U.S. is the country with the most incarcerated individuals, Asia as a continent is where multiple countries with highly-populated prisons are located. The map shows pins clustered in Asia, representing the large prison populations of China, India, Thailand, Turkey, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
However, many of these countries with large prison populations are also the most generally populated in the world. So let’s see if the list changes when we take population into account.
How does a country’s general population affect its incarceration rate—and its rank among the world’s countries with the most inmates? We’ll find out when we take a look at each country’s prison population per 100,000 people on the table below.
|Country or subnational area||Rate per 100,000|
|British Virgin Islands||447|
Once again, the U.S. tops the charts, even when population is considered. For every 100,000 people, 639 are incarcerated in the country. While this doesn’t 100% answer the question of what country has the worst prisons, the U.S. definitely has the most people in prison.
Thailand is the only country with a large count and a high rate of prisoners. No other country with a prisoner count falls on this list. But India (#4 in prisoner count) does make another list: lowest prisoner rate. While India houses 478,600 inmates, its rate of incarceration is the 15th lowest in the world (35 per 100,000 people).
Also in Asia: Turkmenistan, Maldives, and Thailand have the highest prisoner rates, joined by countries in the Americas: El Salvador, Cuba, British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. We can now move on to our final deep dive into the data on the map: the percentage of males versus females in prison.
That just leaves the percentage of male and female inmates, national and foreign percentage, along with occupancy and remand. We’ll address the percentage of male and female inmates now, and you discover more about the other categories by browsing the map.
Did you know that seven countries have entirely all-male prison populations?
- Faroe Islands
- Marshall Islands
- San Marino
Within these countries’ prisons, 100% are male inmates and 0% are female. The rest of the world’s male prison populations range from 99.7% (Mayotte) to 79.9% (Hong Kong). So let’s move on to female prison populations.
In contrast to male prison populations, female inmates are less common. The following countries have the highest percentage of female prisoners in the world:
- Hong Kong (20.1% female prisoners)
- Qatar (14.7%)
- Monaco (14.3%)
- Greenland (13.8%)
- Laos (13.7%)
- Myanmar (12.3%)
- Macau (12.2%)
- Thailand (12.2%)
And that’s a wrap on our map of the populations of prisons around the world. You’ll also want to check out Does Education Influence Incarceration? or Famous Filming Locations Pinned, containing infamous prisons in film.