America's prison explosion exhibited at international map exhibition


Rose Heyer, Prison Policy Initiative

A new map showing how prisons expanded across the United States over the previous century is being exhibited at an international map exhibition in A Coruña Spain.

The map, U.S. Prison Proliferation, 1900-2000 was selected by the U.S. National Committee for the International Cartographic Association to be among the maps representing the United States at the International Cartographic Conference and Map Exhibition in A Coruña, Spain on July 9 - 16, 2005.

Rose Heyer of the Prison Policy Initiative created the map to document the tremendous rise in the incarcerated population in the United States. In 1900, there were just over 57,000 people in U.S. state and federal prisons. A century later, that number had risen to 1.3 million. (Another 621,000 were in 3,000 local jails.)

The map combines government reports with historical records to show where prisons existed in 1900, 1940, 1980 and 2000.

"The United States is now the global leader in incarceration," said mapmaker Rose Heyer. "It seemed fitting to make a map that would show the world just how massive -- and recent -- the U.S. prison building boom has been."

"Even when I controlled for population growth, the size of the prison population is 7 times higher than it was a 100 years ago," said Ms. Heyer. "Most of that prison growth occurred in the last 20 years as a result of the "War on Drugs" and other new punitive criminal justice policies."

About the International Cartographic Conference and Map Exhibition

The International Cartographic Conference and Map Exhibition is the premier international forum for displaying maps, atlases, and other cartographic products. It will be held in A Coruña, Spain the week of July 9 - 16, 2005. Information about ICC 2005 can be found at

About the Prison Policy Initiative

The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) conducts research and advocacy on incarceration policy. Its work starts with the idea that the racial, gender and economic disparities between the prison population and the larger society represent the grounds for a democratic catastrophe. PPI's concept of prison reform is based not only in opposition to a rising rate of incarceration, but in the search for a lasting solution to pressing social problems superior to temporarily warehousing our citizens in prisons and jails.

The Prison Policy Initiative is based in Northampton, Massachusetts. For more information about PPI or prison policy in general, visit


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