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International Corrections
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 05/13/2019

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We have another great topic this month; International Corrections. The article provides corrections personnel with a global overview of corrections. I always find it interesting and worth my time to review corrections global statistics and initiatives. This allows me the opportunity to compare and contrast corrections in the United States and throughout the world. Below are some areas I have an interest in and see how these compare with your interests:
  • Adequate funding for staffing and security
  • Staffing problems and concerns
  • Contraband
  • Programming
  • Security threat groups
  • Technology in corrections
  • Visitation
  • Training
  • Security and control
  • Release and supervision
  • Lockdown/segregation
  • Handling disruptive/violent inmates
  • Youthful offenders
  • Females incarcerated
  • Prison overcrowding
  • Prison population demographics
Each of the areas above is a possible monthly topic. At the same time we have to consider many of the areas discussed are limited by funding. In many cases, there is limited information available. One research area I want to begin with and discuss is the “World Prison Population List” twelfth edition by Roy Walmsley.

This brief contains information for ‘the number of prisoners held in 223 prison systems in independent countries and dependent countries.’ The data provided is from September 2018. Information is currently not available or is incomplete for the following countries; Eritrea, Somalia and North Korea. Anyone interested in imprisonment will find this information beneficial.

I selected several key areas to focus on: The world prison population is approximately 10.7-11 million. Some areas have incomplete or limited information available: Eritrea, Somalia and Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, China, and Guinea Bissau. Also, we must consider some prisoners are ‘held under authorities not recognized internationally.’ The number below will provided an overview for some of the world prison populations.

United States of America 2.1 million prisoners
China 1.65 million prisoners (unknown number in detention)
Brazil 690,000 prisoners
Russian Federation  583,000 prisoners
India 420,000 prisoners
Thailand 354,000 prisoners
Indonesia 249,000 prisoners
Turkey 233,000 prisoners
Iran 230,000 prisoners
Mexico 204,000 prisoners
Philippines 188,000 prisoners

The following number are also interesting and based upon ‘highest prison population rate.’ (Number of prisoners per 100,000 of the national population.)

United States 655 per 100,000 
El Salvador 604 per 100,000 
Turkmenistan 552 per 100,000 
U.S. Virgin Islands 542 per 100,000 
Thailand 526 per 100,000 
Cuba 510 per 100,000 
Maldives  499 per 100,000 
Northern Mariana Islands (U.S.)  482 per 100,000 
British Virgin Islands   470 per 100,000 
Guam (U.S.)  404 per 100,000 
Russian Federation  402 per 100,000 

Again, some interesting numbers for us to consider and compare. The data reflects “Prison population rates vary considerable between different regions of the world and between different parts of the same continent. Example: In Africa, the median rate for western African countries is 53 whereas for southern African countries it is 244.” This is also reflective in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. (For additional information, please see the ‘World Prison Population List, twelfth edition.’

In the last 20 years, the world’s prison population has increased by 24%. Some parts of the world have seen larger increases while other countries have a decrease.

The information I provided should pique your interest into further research and data review in world prisons. We are beginning to see an increase in world prison research. Policy researchers, criminologists, administrators, and others, can utilize this data in a variety of ways. Regardless of the location, prisons present many safety and security concerns. We can learn what is working, not working, etc. I provided some additional sites below for you to consider and utilize if interested.

Thanks and stay safe out there.

World Prison Population List: http://www.prisonstudies.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/wppl_12.pdf
International Corrections and Prisons Association: https://icpa.org/icpa-events/
Technology in Corrections: www.corrections-technology.com

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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