This Is How Many Private Prisons Exist in the US

New analysis shows how many private prisons are in the U.S. and how many prisoners are in those prisons

This Is How Many Private Prisons Exist in the US

If you Google the phrase "private prisons," a lot will come up. You can read news articles for days. People for and against these private prisons have made sure the topic stays in the news cycle. And it definitely has stayed in the news. The topic of private prisons can be confusing and overwhelming, and if you are someone who doesn't know a lot about private prisons or how they are funded/run, you may be wondering, "are there really that many private prisons and prisoners in the US that this should be such a big issue?"

Well, according to the, "private prisons in the United States incarcerated 121,718 people in 2017, representing 8.2 percent of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased 39 percent." Other studies actually say that the private prison industry has grown more than 39 percent.

In a recent analysis done by Summit Defense, a criminal defense law firm based in California, looked at the Bureau of Justice’s 2017 National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) Program and found the percentage of each state’s private prison population.

Overall, they found that like the Sentencing Project that 8.2 percent of the total U.S. prison population is held in private prisons, but in addition to that they found that 26 states have at least some percentage of its prison population in a private prison. The private prison industry includes a total of 51 private prisons in operation in 16 U.S. states and the population keeps growing.

When looking at the state with the highest percentage of prisoners, Montana comes out at number one with 38.1 percent, followed by Hawaii with 28.5 percent, and Tennessee with 26.3 percent. An additional angle looked at was the volume of private prisoners in each state. To find this number Summit Defense calculated the number of prisoners held in private prisons relative to its population. So while Montana has the highest percentage of private prisons overall, Oklahoma has the highest number of prisoners held in private prisons per 10,000 residents. Montana wasn't far behind though with the second-highest number of private prisons per 100,000 residents with 134.13, followed by Arizona with 118.05.

North Carolina and South Carolina come out on the other end of the spectrum. Both these states have the lowest percentage of private prisoners with 0.1 percent. They also have the lowest number of private prisoners per 100,000 residents. The volume of prisoners for both states falls below one percent.

The actual number of private prisons in the US varies by state. Some states like Kansas and Kentucky have zero private prisons. But then there are states like Florida and Texas, both are home to seven private prisons each. According to the analysis, Florida also has the highest estimated prisoner capacity in its private prisons with 9,945, followed by Arizona with 8,288. The number of state prisons still greatly exceeds the number of private prisons in all states. In Florida there are 33 states prisons compared to its seven private and in Texas there are 55 state prisons.

So whether private prisons go on to operate forever or they are closed down by the government, there are definitely some interesting statistics involved that are worth taking a look at and reading about. This is a topic that will most likely be debated and discussed during the upcoming elections and it will be interesting to see what will come of the private prison system in the US in the years to come.

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Pam Jannes
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