The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.
The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate. . . .
And US prison sentences are longer than elsewhere:
Still, it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison policy. Indeed, the mere number of sentences imposed here would not place the United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so the total incarceration rate is higher.
Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, according to Mr. Mauer, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.As to the big question: why?
"Unfortunately, a lot of the answer is democracy" . . . "We have a highly politicized criminal justice system."
From a recent NY Times article.