The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry

10th Anniversary Introduction

Ten years ago, the Prison Policy Initiative and the Western Prison Project set out to compile a reliable and compelling set of statistics about the rapidly growing criminal justice system. In 611 facts and 17 graphs and charts, we gave advocates, journalists and policymakers a view on where the country was, where it had been, and what the future of criminal justice could be.

Since then, despite its age, The Prison Index continues to be one of our most popular and frequently cited parts of our website. We were honored to see Jens Soering write:

“Without The Prison Index, I could not have written my second or third book. This clearly organized and comprehensive volume is the best single reference work available to writers and researchers in the field of corrections.”

We hope to update this book in the future. Our goal is not just to update the numbers — which haven’t drastically changed — but to tell new stories that will help fuel the growing public skepticism of the status quo. The crime control industry was fueled by fear, but today the public is starting to learn that it is better to be “smart on crime” than “tough on crime”.

Until we can produce a new edition, we offer this book, and its footnotes, to the world.

—Peter Wagner, April 2013

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The Prison Index

About the publishers and author



Overview: Trends in the Crime Control Industry: Incarceration; Death Penalty; Private Prisons; The Crime Control Industry & the Economy

Section I: Crime & Punishment in the U.S. Crime & Public Perception

Section II: Incarceration & Its Consequences

Section III: The Prison Economy

Section IV: Global Comparisons Crime and incarceration around the world

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