Prison population in democracy and totalitarianism

Quite often, the data on repressions are used to demonstrate that a country is not “sufficiently democratic”. Here is some rather interesting data on the prison population in different countries from the International Centre for Prison Studies.

Let’s start with Russia, as it is now again the new enemy #1 of the “democratic world” as announced by the leaders of USA. In Russia, the number of prisoners equals to 467 people per 100,000 of national population. Is that a lot or not?

Let’s compare with other well-known totalitarian regimes. Their neighbor – Belarus with their totalitarian leader Lukashenko sports 335 people per 100,000 of population in jails. Uhm, okay, so Belarus is not as totalitarian as we thought. But certainly Iran would qualify as a totalitarian state, where people are thrown into jail for minimal brushes with the Muslim laws, right? Iran has 283 people per 100,000 of population in jails. No, this cannot be right. China! China is the totalitarian state of the century! China’s oppression of the “small man” is iconic and this is confirmed by their prison rate of … 124 people per 100,000 of national population. Strange, isn’t it?

Okay. Let’s get to the democratic side then. How are the things in the leader of the world democracy – United States? United States welcomes you to democracy with a prison rate of 707 detainees per 100,000 of national population. Oops. USA has 5% of the world population and 25% of the world incarcerated population.

Does this mean that to reach proper enlightened democracy Russia has to put double the number of people into jails and China would have to get five times as fast at locking people up?

prisoners per 100000 population 2014

Diagram showing number of prisoners per 100,000 of national population in selected countries at the end of 2014.