20 Countries with the Largest Prison Populations in the World

Around the globe, governments respond to illegal activity and social unrest in many ways. Here in the United States, policymakers in the 1970s made the decision to start incarcerating Americans at globally unprecedented rates. The decades that followed have revealed that the growth in the world prison population can be more closely attributed to ideological policy choices than actual crime rates. And, if you want to get the whole picture, read this article at Insidermonkey on the largest prison populations in the world.

Some people blame the for-profit system for the growing number of incarcerations. When a Barclays' analyst toured a private prison seeking investment opportunities, he produced some creepy points. More generally, the "War on Drugs" is on the hook. Since the 1980s, federal inmates numbers have soared almost 800% as law enforcement cracks down on drug offenders to decrease rates of addiction and use. The result: Minor drug offenses put blacks behind bars at disproportionately higher rates than whites. And the growing number of whites in prison can be partly attributed to America's massive meth problem that has arisen in the last 10 years. Basically, the "War on Drugs" failed, and overflowing U.S. prisons is one of the biggest consequences.

Still very much in use nowadays, detention facilities are the most common form of punishment for a wide variety of crimes. Prison sentences can be longer than you imagine; just check out our list on The 6 Longest Prison Sentences Ever Given and find out how incredibly long someone be left to rot in jail.

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