Open Knowledge International

Prison Policy Initiative

  • Prison Policy Initiative
Prison Policy Initiative

##The problem Incarceration in the United States is an 80 billion dollar a year industry. The United States has some of the most lengthy sentences and highest per capita rates of imprisonment in the world. America’s prison system is driven by profit and not by rehabilitation and public welfare. Those in prison are a voiceless population, whose inability to capture the public’s attention is further reduced by their low socioeconomic status and (largely) non-white race.

Open data is particularly useful for those social phenomena and social injustices that are quite literally out of the sight. Those that are incarcerated, much like illegal immigrants, the homeless, and the trafficked, are relegated to non-entity status. Their problems are supposedly not those of the law-abiding, responsible citizen. Any initial step to undoing this stigma requires quite simply that these unseen people become seen.

##The solution Open data about the demographic and financial information of municipal, state, and federal level prisons can delineate a clearer picture of the prison industry and can help predict the impact of potential policy changes.

Additionally, aggregating data about incarceration on an international scale creates comparisons that are increasingly important to an internationalized world in which countries looks to each other for successful policy models.

The Prison Policy Initiative published data on US state incarceration rates in comparison to countries of the world. Despite comparable crime levels to other industrialized countries, the United States incarcerates approximately five times as many people compared to the rest of the world.

Data Used: Prison Census Data Global Incarceration Data

Credit: Census Bureau, Institute for Criminal Policy Research

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