Report: Mississippi Incarcerates More People Per Capita Than Russia and China . . . Combined

Flag_of_Mississippi.svgA_Southern_chain_gang_c1903-restoreThere is a rather shocking statistic being reported out of the International Centre for Prison Studies this week: Mississippi locks up more people per capita than China and Russia combined. It turns out the “Hospitality State” may continue to have one of the lowest rankings in public education and employment but they will put you in jail faster than Vladimir Putin can say do svidaniya.

Here are the stats: Mississippi reports 686 inmates per 10,000 population in 2013. In comparison, China incarcerates 121 while Russia incarcerates 475 per 10,000.

The state has moved recently to give more power to judges to hand down alternative sentences. There are good reasons for sentencing guidelines, but they work best as guidelines. When you impose mandatory minimums, it tends to drive up incarceration and denies judges the ability to tailor sentencing to fit actual cases. I once testified with the judge who said that he was surprised by the lack of discretion in the federal system. After all, he said, he was selected because he had done well in law school, done well in practice, accumulated decades of experience . . . only to be told that he could not use any of that accumulated experience in sentencing offenders.

Critics have charged that the new law actually will magnify the problem because, while allowing more discretion, it also classified those convicted of drug sales, burglary of an occupied dwelling and arson as “violent” offenders. The article below discusses a case where a woman was just a month from release as a drug dealer when her parole was cancelled under the new law. The law also imposes habitual offender sentencing which will prolong incarceration. Yet, beyond these two changes, the added discretion should help with first offenders and other categories of crime.

Oklahoma flagLouisiana SealWith 19,811 people behind bars, Mississippi is still not the top incarcerating state. That distinction rests with Louisiana at 39,147 and Oklahoma at 26,927. Presumably, these states also top Russian and China combined in per capita incarceration rates.

Source: Clarion Ledger

64 thoughts on “Report: Mississippi Incarcerates More People Per Capita Than Russia and China . . . Combined”

  1. most criminal laws and traffic laws should be rescinded.

    let lawyers,leos, and other special interest groups specialize in the most costly of all human behavior: white collar crime.

    paul – maybe someone else knows a cure for your over-consumption of Kool Aid. maybe check the newsmax site.

  2. Well, now the idiots at the Clarion have messed it up even more. Here is what they had:

    Here are the stats: Mississippi reports 686 inmates per 10,000 population in 2013. In comparison, China incarcerates 121 while Russia incarcerates 475 per 10,000.

    That has now been changed to:

    The state had 1,155 inmates per 10,000 population in 2013,

    Yup, now it is up to more than 10% of the whole state being locked up. Maybe the Clarion thinks Barney Fife is in town and is locking the whole state up??? I also guess that means the author thinks Mississippi has a total population of about 200,000. This is getting hilarious!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  3. Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter

    Prof. Turley

    Since you are checking on this thread … Mississippi thread …

    Nick S, two comments have been deleted in violation of the civility rule.


    Docmadison, you have had another comment removed under our civility rule.


    I am not sure why this thread has turned personal yet again with the same folks, but I ask that people return to the merits of arguments and not attack those making the arguments as a basic condition of mature discourse.
    JT is saying …

    “[You] speak an infinite deal of nothing.” – Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice)

    1. I do desire we may be better strangers. – Shakespeare (As You Like It)

  4. MikeA, Congress has finally done away w/ the Federal Sentencing racist crack guidelines pushed through Congress by Tip O’Neil.

  5. Mandatory sentencing statutes are yet another example of fear-based policy decisions. They serve no criminal justice purpose, but they are a popular means for politicians to burnish their “tough on crime” credentials while simultaneously striking out at that mythical class of liberal judges that the uninformed and the unwashed love to rail against, a win-win for mindless authoritarians.

    1. Mike – I do disagree that the three strikes rule doesn’t have a deterrent effect, however, prosecutors of course have manipulated it. There are cases in the UK where people have been arrested, convicted and released over 20 times for the same offense. What is your suggestion to get through to them to stop the anti-social behavior?

  6. maxcat, I have often given my litany of groups involved in the insane war on drugs. It seemed the govt. employees union was most appropriate for this post. But, also complicit are private prisons, big Pharma, the legal industry, and the liquor industry.

    1. Nick – you’re right in the list of culprits. I wish big Pharma would let me get my cough medicine, and the government would let me have medical pot. This Fibromyalgic Asthmatic would be happy!

  7. PAUL says: “so, if I am following your thinking correctly, criminals are overwhelmingly Democratic?”

    Wrong, as usual. The War on (certain) Drugs mainly targets minorities. Based on your apparent logic, Most law breakers are Republicans, but I realize you reach your conclusion based on a narrow definition of the term “criminal”. Other than 1%ers like Colts owner JIM ISRAY, who was busted while in a motor vehicle, most conservatives are able to avoid being watched while they do drugs…safely inside a nice house.

    Law breakers are criminals…whether they are in a BMW or a new Camry. And most, like ISRAY can afford lawyers who are able to keep their “record” clean.

    Most of the law breakers in my neighborhood are Asian women driving upscale SUVs…just as recklessly with public safety as you are in your limited worldview.

    1. You guys are both wrong. Most Criminals are not criminals at all but victims that run amok of the system. See Dredds comment above

    2. bill mcwilliams – my question was directed to deeza not you. 😉 And your answer, though sweepingly broad and possibly racist, does not answer my question.

  8. Dredd

    “US Vice President Dick Cheney was indicted today [2006] for a prison profiteering scheme and charged with abuse of prisoners. Cheney invested millions in the Vanguard Group, an investment management company with interests in the prison companies in charge of detention centers.” (Cheney Indicted).

    “A Mississippi prison for severely mentally ill inmates is infested with rats that prisoners sell to one another as pets, two civil liberties groups claimed in a federal lawsuit filed on Thursday.

    Inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian live under “barbaric” conditions, in filthy quarters without working lights or toilets, forcing them to defecate on Styrofoam trays or into trash bags, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed in the lawsuit.

    Beatings, rape, robbery and riots are commonplace, and inmates are denied access to medication and psychiatric care, the 83-page complaint stated.

    The privately run prison “is an extremely dangerous facility operating in a perpetual state of crisis” and inmates’ human rights are violated daily, according to the groups. Some prisoners set fires in a desperate attempt to get medical attention in emergencies, the lawsuit said.” (HP).

    Seriously Yaaaaayyyyy 🙂 That they finally got some dirt to stick on that jerk 🙂

  9. I did a quick check of some census figures. Mississippi has the distinction of also being number one in: 1) infant mortality; 2) poverty (although this is with an asterisk, due to the fact that the District of Columbia has a higher percentage of households below the poverty line); and 3) obesity. It is high in the running for lowest high school graduation rates but does not take the pennant. And at the risk of providing troll bait, it is also the state with the highest percentage of African Americans (37.7%) It is a state stuck in its own miserable history. Mississippi is a third world country within our boarders. Their infant mortality rate is roughly the same as Botswana.

    I am ever cautious of statistics without context. It is possible the criminal justice system is broken. It’s certainly screwed-up in enough other places in the United States. It is also possible that this statistic (incarceration) merely reflects an otherwise poor miserable population that sees little hope and engages in a higher rate of crime accordingly.

  10. @Plato’s Cave

    You said, ” the racial breakdown is appalling.”

    I do not understand. Are you saying that black people who commit crimes should not be locked up? Because if so, then you are nothing but a racist who is discriminating against white people. Black people should not get to skate because of their race.

    Or, are you saying that white people who commit the same crimes as blacks are not being locked up? Because if so, I am all in favor of locking up more white people. White people should not get to skate because of their race.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  11. Nick – I totally agree about the “war on drugs”. It is not only a money making scheme for the prison industry, but sadly it has been for the government as well. Don’t consider all of this a “Dem. thing”, although they are complicit in it as well. From what I remember, the “war” began in the Reagan administration. Now, however, as of two weeks ago, in order to get my prescription cough medicine, which I need perhaps two times a year, I can no longer have my doctor phone or fax it in. I must go to his office, sign for the script, and carry it to the pharmacy. Why? Because my codeine cough medicine poses a risk to…me? I have no intention of chugging the bottle. However, because someone MIGHT, I have to go through hoops.
    As for Lawrence Summers, I have no use for him, but I do have to admit a real deficiency when it comes to math. Never liked it, never will, but I don’t think it’s because I’m female. I loved science.

  12. It’s misleading (and pandering to “blue state” mentality) to focus on Mississippi. On a whole the US has a far higher rate of incarceration than any other country, and worse the racial breakdown is appalling.

    “From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people.
    Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.
    Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control.

    African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population.
    African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.”

  13. You’d have to see a breakdown of prisoners in Mississippi by crime and length of sentence to determine if too many are being sent to prison for too long. I don’t see that here. As for the “War on Drugs” I have no idea what that means. Are you going to legalize drugs for 16 year olds? Do you realize that Cocaine and Heroin are dangerous medically speaking and wouldn’t pass the FDA if someone tried to sell them OTC?

  14. So that’s the argument? Don’t imprison criminals because then we’d have more per capita than Russia? Really?

    1. Squeeky – Sickert is back in the rotation along with many others, but I did not find the case for him persuasive. He is way down on my list.

  15. Mandatory minimum sentencing is a result of the lobbying efforts of private prison organizations. They push states like Mississippi into accepting contract stipulations guaranteeing %90 occupancy rates to maintain their profit goals. The state then has two options…incarcerate more people by enforcing mandatory minimums or simply paying the private companies for all the empty cots up to the %90 threshold. The latter option is politically dangerous and in the long run costs more than publicly maintaining the prison so…mandatory minimums it is. As regarding drug laws, possession is often a felony. Felons cannot vote in Mississippi and can only regain the right after release through petition. Those incarcerated for drug possession are overwhelmingly people of color. People of color tend to overwhelmingly vote “D”. Looks like Mississippi has found a convenient business model to enrich private prison profiteers while keeping more people of color off the streets and knocking the “D” vote tallies down a few percentage points. Ain’t privatization grand?

    1. Dezza – so, if I am following your thinking correctly, criminals are overwhelmingly Democratic?

  16. Plus she’s a girl, a liberal heavyweight, Lawrence Summers, doesn’t think women know math or science.

  17. Squeeky knows math and I believe she was publicly educated. A tree grows in Brooklyn.

  18. @Darren Smith or Prof.Turley

    It might be a good idea to update the above article to indicate that the math is waaay off. The number should 666/100,000 NOT 666/10,000. The Clarion source has screwed up the math. I am not sure whether the rates from Russia and China are correct, or not. But it would not be good for credibility for people to cite this website for the erroneous 666/10,000 number.

    FWIW, my calculations show 19,127/3,000,000 = .006376. If you use the Clarion’s numbers, 666/10,000=.0666, which time 3,000,000 = 199,800 people being locked up, not 19,127. Mississippi ain’t got 200,000 people in jail.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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