Democratic Maricopa County attorney candidate says Arizona has world’s eighth-highest incarceration

During a recent debate, Arizona Democratic candidate Julie Gunnigle claimed the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office needed criminal justice reform and said its incarceration rate was ” inconsistent with the national norm.

“If Arizona were a country, it would be the eighth-largest incarcerator in the world,” Gunnigle said during the Sept. 15 debate televised on Arizona PBS.

So, does Arizona rank 8th for the highest incarceration rates in the United States and the world? Of a measure, yes.

PolitiFact reached out to Gunnigle, and she pointed us to data from the Prison Policy Initiative, a public policy think tank focused on criminal justice. It shows that Arizona incarcerated 868 people per 100,000 population in state prisons, local prisons, federal prisons and other detention systems, making it the eighth highest of the 50 states and the world. reunited.

In many ways, the United States leads the world in incarceration rates. But because methodologies differ, comparing numbers is complicated. Nations set terms of imprisonment and imprisonment in different ways. When countries have similar sentences, experts say it’s okay to compare incarceration rates.

“As long as the line between prison and prison sentences is consistent, there is nothing grossly misleading about comparing state and national incarceration rates cross-nationally,” he said. said Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics defines an incarceration rate as the number of inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents held in state or federal prisons or local jails.

We know the incarceration rates. In August 2015, PolitiFact Virginia ranked Mostly True a claim that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with the largest share of its population behind bars compared to other countries. In 2013, the University of London’s International Center for Prison Studies, which examines prison populations in more than 200 countries and territories, reported that the US prison population rate of 716 inmates per 100,000 population was the No. 1 worldwide. In 2015, the group ranked the United States second in the world with 698 prisoners per 100,000 people.

The Prison Policy Initiative used a 2018 report when compiling US data. At that time, federal statistics gathered from the World Prison Brief indicated that 642 people per 100,000 population were imprisoned, ranking above all other countries in the world.

According to current estimates based on 2020 estimates from the US Census Bureau, the United States has a prison population rate of 505 people per 100,000 of the national population.

But Arizona is not an exception among US states. If every US state were rated as an independent nation, 24 states would have higher incarceration rates than every other country in the world.

“Arizona is just one of many other states in America,” said Alfred Blumstein, a Carnegie Mellon professor who studies criminal justice policy.

The United States is one step ahead of the rest of the world

Data from the Prison Policy Initiative clearly shows that “the United States is ahead of the rest of the world and its incarceration rate,” Blumstein said. “So it seems silly to compare Arizona to the rest of the world; it would be much more meaningful to compare Arizona to the rest of the states – it would still be No. 8 – and the United States would be out of reach of the rest. of the world.”

Prison Policy Initiative spokeswoman Wanda Bertram said the organization’s research methodology is more comprehensive than other reports on criminal justice statistics.

“When we calculate our incarceration rates, it’s not just about prisons,” Bertram said. “We also count the detention in local jails, the detention rate of people from the states in federal prisons. And then we also count the incarceration of minors and the detention of immigrants.”

Compared to the founding nations of NATO, Arizona’s per capita incarceration rate is the 8th in the world.

“Eighth highest, it’s like if every US state was a country and the US was still a country, it would have the eighth highest incarceration rate in the world,” Bertram said. “If it was like Arizona seceding from the United States today, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world, even higher than the United States”

Compared to other stable democracies, such as European Union member states and Canada, Arizona is an exception when it comes to incarceration rates per 100,000 population.

According to the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs 2019 statistics on US correctional populations, Arizona had 760 people in jails and local jails for every 100,000 US residents of all ages. The government agency used information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Annual Probation Survey, the Annual Parole Survey, the National Prisoner Statistics Program, the 2019 Prison Census and the US Census Bureau, of the estimated resident population after the census as of January 1, 2020, to report these results.

Gunnigle pledged to conduct what she called a “comprehensive audit” of the office and expand diversion programs. (Diversion programs allow people who have committed minor, non-violent criminal offenses to stay out of court and avoid jail time. Programs often include rehabilitation.)

Gunnigle’s opponent, outgoing county attorney Rachel Mitchell, who was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey in April, did not directly respond to Gunnigle’s request. “I’m prepared to look at the cases with an open mind,” Mitchell said during the debate. “But the vast majority of cases in the office are not overloaded; they are handled appropriately.”

Our decision

Gunnigle said, “If Arizona were a country, it would be the eighth largest incarcerator in the world.”

The numbers back it up. Arizona incarcerated 868 people per 100,000 population in state prisons, local prisons, federal prisons and other detention systems, making it eighth of all US states and the world. Although Arizona ranks eighth in the world according to the Prison Policy Initiative, other agencies measure incarceration rates at different times and with different methodologies. Therefore, finding a definitive number is difficult.

We rate this claim largely true.

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