World Prison Population List (Eighth Edition)
My how things have changed ^… A few Key Points below….
This eighth edition of the World Prison Population List gives details of the number of prisoners held in 218 independent countries and dependent territories. It
shows the differences in the level of imprisonment across the world and makes possible an estimate of the world prison population total. The information is the latest available in early December 2008. This is the third edition of the List to be published by the International Centre for Prison Studies and it complements the information which ICPS already publishes and updates monthly on the World Prison Brief section of its website www.prisonstudies.org. The World Prison Population List is compiled from a variety of sources. In almost all cases the original source is the national prison administration of the
country concerned, or else the Ministry responsible for the prison administration. Most figures relate to dates between the beginning of 2006 and the end of November 2008. Since prison population rates (per 100,000 of the national population) are based on
estimates of the national population they should not be regarded as precise. In order to compare prison population rates in different regions of the world, and to estimate the number of persons held in prison in the countries for which information is not available, median rates have been used because they minimise the effect of countries with rates that are untypically high or low. A number of points need to be noted. Figures are not available for six countries and the information does not relate to the same date. Comparability is further compromised by different practice in different countries, for example with regard to whether all pre-trial detainees and juveniles are held under the authority of the prison administration, and also whether the prison administration is responsible
for psychiatrically ill offenders and offenders being detained for treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. People held in custody are usually omitted from official national totals if they are not under the authority of the prison administration. It is hoped that this edition of the World Prison Population List will be found useful by those who
are studying the extent of imprisonment world-wide or are interested in variations in criminal justice practice. The data may prompt fresh thought among policy-makers and other criminal justice experts about the size of the prison population in their
country, given the high costs and disputed efficacy of imprisonment.
More than 9.8 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees (remand prisoners) or as sentenced prisoners.
Almost half of these are in the United States (2.29m), Russia (0.89m) or China (1.57m sentenced prisoners).
A further 850,000 are held in ‘administrative detention’ in China; if these are included the overall Chinese total is over 2.4 million and the world total over 10.65 million.
c The United States has the highest prison population
rate in the world, 756 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia (629), Rwanda (604),
St Kitts & Nevis (588), Cuba (c.531), U.S. Virgin Is.
(512), British Virgin Is. (488), Palau (478), Belarus (468),
Belize (455), Bahamas (422), Georgia (415), American
Samoa (410), Grenada (408) and Anguilla (401).
c Almost three fifths of countries (59%) have rates below
150 per 100,000.
c The world population in 2008 is estimated at 6,750
million (United Nations); set against a world prison
population of 9.8 million this produces a world prison
population rate of 145 per 100,000 (158 per 100,000 if
set against a world prison population of 10.65 million).
c Prison population rates vary considerably between
different regions of the world, and between different
parts of the same continent. For example:
• in Africa the median rate for western African countries is
35 whereas for southern African countries it is 231;
• in the Americas the median rate for south American
countries is 154 whereas for Caribbean countries it
• in Asia the median rate for south central Asian countries
(mainly the Indian sub-continent) is 53 whereas for
(ex‑Soviet) central Asian countries it is 184;
• in Europe the median rate for southern and western
European countries is 95 whereas for the countries
spanning Europe and Asia (e.g. Russia & Turkey) it
• in Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) the
median rate is 102.5.
c Prison populations are growing in many parts of the
world. Updated information on countries included in
previous editions of the World Prison Population List
shows that prison populations have risen in 71% of
these countries (in 64% of countries in Africa, 83% in
the Americas, 76% in Asia, 68% in Europe and 60%