Behind Bars: The 15 States That Put the Most People in Prison

With so much light being shed on the country’s violent crime problem, gun laws, and the people who enforce them, many are starting to question just how safe our cities and states are. The United States locks away more prisoners than any other country. While the annual cost of keeping a person in prison varies by state, taxpayers across the country still have to foot the $39 billion corrections bill.

Criminal codes are state mandated, meaning some states put more people in prison than others. The Sentencing Project analyzed the incarceration rate and other correctional data to find the states with the largest and smallest prison systems. So which states are more likely to put someone behind bars? Here are the 15 states with the highest incarceration rates.

15. Delaware


Delaware Delaware has a lot of people in prison per capita. | Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

  • Prison incarceration rate: 441 per 100,000 people
  • Total corrections expenditures: $291 million

This tiny Mid-Atlantic state puts a surprisingly high number of people in the slammer per capita. Delaware has a population of 952,065 residents — 4,188 of whom are prisoners. In comparison, the state with the lowest incarceration rate, Maine, has just 132 people in prison per every 100,000.

Next: A dangerous state with lots of prisoners behind bars

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