El Salvador has the world’s highest prison population rate, according to data collected in the World Prison Brief by the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research (ICPR).
The Central American country had 1,086 people serving jail sentences per 100,00 inhabitants in May 2022.
As Statista’s Florian Zandt shows in the chart below, most countries with a high prisoner-to-inhabitant ratio are small and could be considered developing economies – with one major exception.
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This exception is the United States, which boasts a prison population rate of 531.
Technically, the U.S. is featured not only once but thrice in the top 8, with American Samoa and Guam being unincorporated territories.
Other big economies mainly feature drastically lower on the ICPR’s list.
Notable exceptions to this rule include Turkey, Brazil and Russia, placing 12th, 13th and 26th, respectively.
When looking at the data from the perspective of the overall prison population, the picture is markedly different. By this indicator, the United States comes first, followed by China, Brazil, India and Russia.
Interestingly, all five current BRICS nations but only one G7 member are featured in the top 15.
While the ICPR’s dataset allows comparisons between countries, the reporting timeframes for the official figures often differ wildly from nation to nation. Given this caveat, the data doesn’t support showing the situation at one specific set date.