(Published on Huffington Post)
While the United States may be the "land of the free," it is simultaneously the land of the caged. If you live in the U.S., your chances of success are greater than they would be in just about any other nation on earth. There's a reason that people come here in search of the "American Dream." It's a statistical fact, however, that your chances at landing in prison in this country are far greater than any other place on the globe.
With 2.2 million people currently behind bars in the U.S., this country imprisons more people than does China and North Korea -- societies that we may think of as 'barbarian'. We incarcerate twice as many citizens per capita as Brazil, triple that of Australia, quadruple France. If it were an olympic event, we would be gold medalists, perpetually so, considering how far ahead we are.
But it seems that the country is full of competitors vying for the top spot within, fifty different state prison systems with varying incarceration rates. Which states are currently in the running for the top spots? Is there one region of the U.S. that is particularly successful at jailing it's citizens? Where are you most likely to be incarcerated?
Top Ten Incarcerating States
Rank State Odds of Imprisonment
1) Louisiana 1 in 114
2) Oklahoma 1 in 142
3) Alabama 1 in 158
4) Arkansas 1 in 167
5) Mississippi 1 in 168
6) Arizona 1 in 169
7) Texas 1 in 171
8) Missouri 1 in 190
9) Georgia 1 in 193
10) Florida 1 in 195
Apparently, the South is dominant in the incarceration field. All but one of the top ten imprisonment leaders in the U.S. are in the Deep South. This might not be surprising given the South's history of chain gangs and "hanging judges," but it's no less tragic. If these top ten states carried the same odds of incarceration as the middle ten, the U.S. would no longer live at the top of the list of mass incarceration countries. Instantly, America would fall beneath Thailand, Russia, Rwanda, and others. We wouldn't even medal a bronze.
Statistically-speaking, you are three times more likely to go to prison in the South than you are in the Northeast parts of the U.S. The reality, however, is that every state in this country qualifies as a mass incarcerator.
Until sentencing policies change nationwide, we will continue to lead the world in jailing our population. It is most unfortunate, and ironic, that the "land of the free" literally has more handcuffs than any other land on earth.
Where are you most likely to go to prison? America