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Countries with the Most Prisoners

Name the countries that have the largest prison populations.
  • According to a ICPR and Wikipedia as of 2018
  • Numbers with parentheses are estimates
  • Quiz by Anthony121 - Jun 15, 2018
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Prisoners
Country
2,121,600
1,649,804
682,901
595,728
419,623
343,657
249,419
232,179
230,000
204,749
Prisoners
Country
178,661
(175,000)
158,111
116,058
115,035
113,727
(106,000)
85,727
83,718
83,430
Answer Stats
Prisoners
Country
% Correct
Your %
+7
level 33
Nov 7, 2014
Woah
+18
level 65
Jun 16, 2018
The number for the U.S. is approximately ten times what it was pre-War on Drugs (i.e. 1970s). The New Jim Crow, as Michelle Alexander has said.
+4
level 55
Jun 16, 2018
The number of druggie criminals is 100 times what it was in the 1950s. Still a lot of catching up to do.
+22
level 71
Nov 7, 2014
Land of the free.....
+10
level 40
Nov 20, 2015
lol we have the most idiots
+3
level 31
Dec 27, 2015
and 100% got it :D
+3
level 73
Jan 11, 2015
Took me a while to get the last two. Picked up Ethiopia with only 11 seconds to go.
+1
level 73
Jan 11, 2015
The same two I had trouble with are the ones that are only 30% guessed so I guess I wasn't the only one.
+1
level 66
Jan 12, 2016
Those were the last two I got too. Got Morocco with 8 seconds left. :D
+1
level 21
Mar 24, 2015
Didn't expect Ethiopia to be on here?
+2
level 42
Nov 20, 2015
Yeah so 100% get the USA, well that statistic is about to change haha
+11
level 55
Jun 16, 2018
Huh?
+1
level 43
Aug 9, 2018
It's still at 100%...tells you something
+1
level 33
Nov 20, 2015
why is china with the bracket??
+1
level 28
Nov 20, 2015
why do china and north korea have brackets?
+8
level 71
Nov 20, 2015
North Korea obviously won't provide any realistic official data. This number will hence be based on dissenters' accounts. China has official statistics for convicted criminals, but also has "reeducation camps". The latter seem to be included and the number thus diverges from official statistics.
+2
level ∞
Nov 20, 2015
Exactly.
+1
level 57
Nov 20, 2015
Went all along the coast of North Africa and forgot to finish with Morocco to get the full 20. Ugh.
+4
level 46
Nov 20, 2015
great quiz - a simialr one but based on percentage of population would be interesting
+1
level 45
Mar 6, 2016
Do check out my other quizzes, maybe they might be of interest!
+2
level 58
Nov 20, 2015
"Capitalism, downfall..." last words of Hitchens.
+6
level 67
Jan 8, 2018
I'm sure the socialists in Venezuela would love to hear about how Capitalism is so bad, as they scavenge through garbage and eat rats because they haven't had a meal in weeks. All the while, Venezuela sits ontop of the world's largest oil reserves with trillions of dollars of potential wealth. Wealth that a capitalist system would have tapped into years ago...
+4
level 64
Jun 18, 2018
Nonsense! There's a lot less of that in Venezuela today than when I was there in the 1990's The US wants to destroy Venezuela and the US media spreads misinformation about it because it wants to control the oïl and be political master of the region.
+3
level ∞
Aug 7, 2018
I feel bad for the Venezuelans, but I do think their example is beneficial to the world. Anytime people start to think that socialism is the answer to their problems, there is a ready example of how it is definitely not. I'm reminded of this story from Ursula K. Le Guin. Venezuela suffers for our sins.
+8
level 69
Aug 7, 2018
The problem is that people confuse "socialism" as it exists in Venezuela with "socialism" as most people in the US that actually have those leanings actually want. Venezuela was more democratic and capitalist (though with some significant corruption) in the past - in fact, into the early 90s many businesses saw it as one of the best places in South America to invest. What Chavez brought is realistically best described as a dictatorship trying to appease the masses with "socialist" giveaways. That never works. What most Americans in favor of "socialism" want is something like what we see in Sweden, UK, Denmark, Canada, Germany, etc - things like universal healthcare and subsidized education - areas where capitalism simply hasn't worked. Not government control over industries like Chavez/Maduro push.
+1
level 60
Aug 7, 2018
The dictatorship and the related corruption and inefficiency of the state-owned enterprises don't help anything. But I think the Chavez/Maduro price control system is what really sunk the country. When producing things and selling those things makes you poorer (because you can't cover the cost of production at the controlled price), you won't produce anything. People not producing valuable things = poverty.
+4
level 69
Aug 7, 2018
It's amazing how many economists are playing this JetPunk quiz.
+3
level 65
Aug 7, 2018
Venezuela's is a complex story. Chavez was massively popular throughout his rule: he was a gifted public figure, but also because greater public control allowed a significant redistribution of wealth. Between 1999 and 2010, overall poverty fell from 60% to 23% of the population and acute poverty from 25% to 5% - declines that were unmatched anywhere else in the world in that period. This was underwritten by rapidly rising oil prices (although that could then have produced the same outcomes in the Nigerias, Mexicos, and Kuwaits of the world, which didn't happen). Other problems persisted: overseas (U.S. antagonism to Bolivarianism); regional (the move across the border of Colombian drug networks); and domestic (opposition from wealthier and Whiter Venezuelans). Chavez died right at the time of the collapse of oil prices. That, combined with Maduro's inability to manage the ongoing challenges, has hollowed out the promise many Venezuelans once fought for vigorously.
+2
level ∞
Aug 7, 2018
I think that's a fair statement @shortyoh. Many people want high taxes and free government health care, and those are reasonable desires. The dictionary definition of socialism is different though. To quote Wikipedia, socialism is "social ownership and workers' self-management of the means of production". I think if people are calling for "socialism", they should be very clear about what they want. Countries like Norway aren't socialist by the textbook definition. They are capitalist with high levels of taxation and social services. Which has been a successful model.
+1
level 65
Nov 20, 2015
China and NK in brackets, a classic
+2
level 33
Nov 20, 2015
woah... PEru!
+3
level 27
Aug 7, 2018
I hope the majority of their prison population consists of those annoying pan flute bands
+4
level 51
Nov 20, 2015
So the good old USA tops out on another statistic....
+1
level 66
Nov 20, 2015
I thought it was China?
+1
level 33
Nov 20, 2015
In Iran, I bet there are probably more people in jail for taking their shawls off, or protesting, than for crimes including knives.
+1
level 31
Nov 24, 2015
What about Japan or germany
+1
level 59
Jan 24, 2017
The list in the source has changed a bit since the quiz was made. Atm Germany is at #26 and Japan at #34.
+1
level 23
Mar 15, 2016
There are more Prisoners in the world then what there is people living in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland combined :O
+11
level 55
Jun 16, 2018
There are more people sleeping in Tokyo now than there are people in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland combined :O
+11
level 73
Jun 16, 2018
There are more ukulele players in Oahu than there are penguins living in Mongolia, Moldova, Malawi, Somalia, and the planet Mars combined.
+1
level 53
Aug 17, 2016
No Australia?
+1
level 56
Sep 26, 2016
I'm in Morocco (though not a Moroccan) but didn't know that about the country. Wow! Weird for an Arab, relatively stable country to have quite a large number of prisoners.
+1
level 29
Aug 22, 2017
Now i now what was up with the turkish coup ... they wanted to get better rank in this list :)
+6
level 72
Oct 1, 2017
I'm surprised Australia isn't on this list. I thought it was a requirement to live there. :)
+1
level 61
Jun 16, 2018
where did you get that idea from?
+1
level 70
Jun 18, 2018
It's just an unimaginative joke
+4
level 72
Jun 30, 2018
Australia was founded and settled by British convicts.
+5
level 45
Oct 19, 2017
These kind of quizes should always be per capita. Its boring that always answers are same most populous countries.
+2
level 73
Jun 16, 2018
It doesn't line up exactly, but, yes, on this quiz per capita would be more revealing.
+3
level 63
Aug 7, 2018
It would change things, but the USA still tops the list.
+1
level 31
Mar 24, 2018
1st Should Be South Sudan (Somalia)
+6
level 79
Jun 16, 2018
Huh? Those are two different countries and not even neighbours.
+1
level 69
Jun 16, 2018
per capita numbers would be more interesting. You can get most of these by just guessing the countries with the highest population.
+1
level 67
Jun 16, 2018
Disgraceful.
+1
level 64
Jun 16, 2018
Seems like Duterte is helping those numbers go up.
+2
level 55
Jun 17, 2018
2,121,600 United States 1,649,804 China Look at the percentages. The USA has 350million and China has about 1.5billion people. China's percentage of crime seems very low -- actually, correction. What I should say is the USA has the highest percentage of crime in the world.
+2
level 75
Jun 19, 2018
Just because the USA is big, that doesn't mean it has "the highest percentage of crime in the world." You're just letting your emotions get in the way of the facts. The US rate is nowhere near countries like South Africa, Honduras, Venezuela, Belize, and even India.
+3
level 66
Aug 7, 2018
Granted, this should be per capita, but US is still number one. From a BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2page1.stm
+3
level ∞
Aug 7, 2018
Arguably, countries like Guatemala would be much better off with a higher prison population. The fact that murders go unpunished is a large contributor to the ridiculously high murder rates in Central America.
+2
level 65
Aug 8, 2018
One also should take some critical distance from the term "crime." Crimes reflect behaviors that ruling classes wish to discourage. In some cases (e.g. murder), there's near unanimity that such acts deserve punishment. In others (e.g. smoking marijuana, sodomy, critical journalism, begging, espousing Kurdish or Uyghur nationalism), there's not. The same can be said for types of punishment and their severity. The primacy of prisons as a form of punishment and the lengthening of sentences, of course, increase prison populations.
+1
level ∞
Aug 7, 2018
The U.S. murder rate is less than 1/10th that of the worst countries. We do, however, have a crime rate that is fairly high for industrial countries, as well as a large population and a functioning legal system. Combine those factors to arrive at our large prison population. However, the prison population of the United States is declining.
+2
level 73
Aug 7, 2018
I think that "functioning" might be too strong of a word for the US criminal justice system. Granted, other countries have it worse. There are places where the justice system is more corrupt, more inept, more oppressive and less fair. And there are places where there just isn't a justice system or isn't much of one that are close to being lawless. But the US system still completely sucks. For many different reasons. and the US prison population is still ridiculously high, a lot of which has to do with the misguided and poorly implemented "war on drugs."
+1
level ∞
Aug 8, 2018
I'm definitely not a fan of the war on drugs, but it's a bit of a myth that drug dealers / drug users are filling up our prisons. Most people in the prison system are there because of violent crimes. However, it is true that many people commit assaults and murders while participating in the drug trade. If we legalized most drugs, we would probably see a lower rate of violent crime. I think it's something we should consider. On the other hand, it's better to imprison violent criminals than to let them go free.
+2
level 73
Aug 8, 2018
Do you think it's also a myth that a for-profit prison system incentivizes harsher than needed sentencing and denials of deserved paroles? And what about the effectiveness of the penal system as a tool for rehabilitation?

Having been through the justice system myself before (for some pretty petty crap, and more than once when I was innocent), and screwed over royally each time by kangaroo courts that don't seem to give a crap about justice but only care about conviction rates and squeezing money out of people to pay for themselves, I might have a less rosy picture of the whole thing than most. I've also worked along side cops before. Most were scumbags. The good ones drop out or they get beaten down by the system until they lose their ideals and become a part of said system. Same goes for judges. The whole system is focused on the wrong things and aimed in the wrong direction.

And.. yes, drugs ought to be legalized. And I say this as someone who has never used any.
+1
level 56
Aug 7, 2018
Highest percentage of prisoners and highest percentage of crime are not the same thing. And "crime" is dependent on the country in which the act is committed. Only a handful of crimes (mostly violent offenses, fraud, theft, etc.) are illegal in most places. I believe about half of U.S. prisoners are serving time for drug-related offenses. I'm not saying that drugs are fine, but I'd prefer to live in a society in which 10% of people are drug offenders than one in which 3% of people are murderers. I'm not trying to defend the US and its egregious incarceration numbers. I am merely pointing out that the statistic on which this quiz focuses is not a simple indicator of anything. It's the result of a lot of different factors.
+1
level ∞
Aug 8, 2018
Most people in U.S. prisons are not there for drugs. I wish it were true, because then it'd be an easy problem to solve. But it's not. The U.S. prison population is a reflection of the high rate of violent crime.
+2
level 73
Aug 8, 2018
I'm looking at the pie chart you linked to QM and I think jmellor still has a point. The stat that's often thrown out there about drug offenders can be considered misleading because it only includes people in federal prison, where you've got 180,000 people locked up for non-violent crimes (more than half for drugs) and a measly 14,000 for violent crimes. It's easy to find fault with this because local jails and state prisons make up a much bigger piece of the pie than federal prisons. However, even at the state level barely half of all prisoners are there for violent crimes. And you've got 46,000 people locked up for drug possession- I know it's not a huge percentage of the total but that's still a travesty.
+1
level 59
Jun 18, 2018
It should be noted that a significant portion of those listed in U.S. prisons are actually in local jails (about 600,000 people). A number of groups fall into this category: those awaiting trial, those serving out misdemeanor sentences, those awaiting transfer to a prison. The total U.S. prison population usually includes these people, as well as things like youth detention centers, immigration detainees, and Indian reservation jail/prisons as well. The actual number of people that are in what is usually understood by state and federal prison is about 1.5 million.
+1
level 64
Jul 5, 2018
A cell is a cell
+2
level 75
Jun 19, 2018
An interesting article for any who are wondering why the US has such a large prison population (for the record, it wasn't always that way). https://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2015/02/mass_incarceration_a_provocative_new_theory_for_why_so_many_americans_are.html
+1
level 52
Aug 7, 2018
So what's Egypt's numbers doing in brackets now?
+1
level ∞
Aug 7, 2018
Lack of reliable government statistics.
+1
level 40
Aug 7, 2018
Australia? We have 25 million convicts here!
+1
level 55
Aug 7, 2018
Disappointed to see the UK there, the only western/european country (apart the obvious No.1!!). Our policy clearly needs a rethink
+1
level 42
Aug 7, 2018
That was my reaction. I was actually trying out “Ukraine” when I got the answer
+1
level 66
Aug 7, 2018
Another very good example of a stat that should be presented as PER CAPITA do be meaningful. To check that out further (spoiler alert: US still NUMER ONE): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2page1.stm
+1
level 49
Aug 7, 2018
Shameful
+1
level 54
Aug 7, 2018
100%!!! YES!
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