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Total prison population: Where does the United States rank?

As an observant North Carolina resident who seeks to keep reasonably informed on most matters, you're probably disinclined to immediately offer up a conservative guess as to the above-cited headline question, right?

Because you know that there a good many people housed in state and federal penitentiaries across the country. You know about the criminal law policies enacted in past decades -- those that resulted from the so-called War on Crime and the War on Drugs, such as tough plea bargains and mandatory-minimum sentencing outcomes, even for many nonviolent and first-time offenders-- that continue even now to fill prisons with inmate populations that are swollen and growing by the day.

So, what's your guess?

10th, maybe? Perhaps a number a bit closer to the top, but certainly nothing approximating the reality that exists in a handful-plus of rogue nations with totalitarian regimes?

If that's what you're thinking, brace yourself. According to many and diverse sources that can be quickly checked online, and as additionally noted recently in a Washington Post article on the punitive nature of the American criminal justice system, about one-quarter of all the world's prisoners are presently locked up inside the United States.

And here's a number associated with that stunning statistic that really puts a sobering perspective on domestic criminal law policies and outcomes: The U.S. contains only about 5 percent of the world's population. In both per capita and absolute terms, more people are reportedly behind bars in the United States than in any other country.

Numbers like that clearly herald what involvement with the American criminal justice system is like for millions of people accused of unlawful behavior. Additionally, of course, they underscore most acutely the need that many defendants have for a proven and aggressive criminal defense attorney who can staunchly safeguard their rights and promote their legal interests.

Readers interested in various aspects of the U.S. criminal justice system will likely have ample opportunities to visit the subject going forward, given the commanding spotlight now beaming down on Capitol Hill and state legislatures that is targeting sentencing reform.

We will have something to say about that subject in our next blog post, picking up on some interesting themes noted in the aforementioned national media piece.

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Law Office of Christopher A. Connelly
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