Arkansas has an incarceration rate of 942 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), meaning that it locks up a higher percentage of its people than any democracy on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Arkansas and why.
Jump to COVID-19 data.
26,000 people from Arkansas are behind bars
Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Arkansas is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 45,000 different people are booked into local jails in Arkansas.
Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years
More than third of the people held in jails in Arkansas are held for federal or state agencies, primarily the state prison system. To avoid counting them twice, this population is not included in the yellow jails line. For annual counts of people in jails held for federal or state authorizes in Arkansas, see our table "Jail and prison incarcerated populations by state over time."
Also see these Arkansas graphs:
This graph excludes people held for state or federal authorities from the total count of people held in Arkansas jails. Because a significant proportion (39%) of the population in Arkansas’s jails is held for the state prison system, this graph likely overstates the convicted population and understates the pre-trial population.
Today, Arkansas’s incarceration rates stand out internationally
In the U.S., incarceration extends beyond prisons and local jails to include other systems of confinement. The U.S. and state incarceration rates in this graph include people held by these other parts of the justice system, so they may be slightly higher than the commonly reported incarceration rates that only include prisons and jails. Details on the data are available in States of Incarceration: The Global Context. We also have a version of this graph focusing on the incarceration of women.
People of color are overrepresented in prisons and jails
See also our detailed graphs about Whites,
in Arkansas prisons and jails.
Arkansas's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails
Data on COVID-19 in Arkansas jails and prisons
We gave Arkansas a failing grade in September 2021 for its response to the coronavirus in prisons, noting that:
- Arkansas is one of only 8 states that have failed to reduce their prison population by more than 10% during the pandemic.
- Arkansas is one of only 8 state prison systems that did not offer free phone calls at any point during the pandemic.
- Arkansas is one of 15 prison systems that does not have a policy making hand sanitizer widely available or providing free hygiene products — like soap — to incarcerated people.
For more detail, see our report States of Emergency. Or check out these other resources:
- We're tracking Arkansas's medical copay policies in prisons during the pandemic
- Our Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic page tracks criminal justice policy responses to the coronavirus in all 50 states
- Arkansas returned as many people to prison for technical violations of probation or parole in 2020 — the first year of the pandemic — as it did in 2019.
- Prisons are COVID-19 hotspots, but as of mid-May 2021, only 47% of people in Arkansas prisons had gotten a vaccine
- As of late April 2021, only 35% of corrections staff in Arkansas prisons had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine
- Arkansas is one of only a handful of states that never released details about its plan to vaccinate incarcerated people
- Arkansas prisons were still over 100% capacity in December 2020, several months into the pandemic
- How many COVID-19 cases in Arkansas communities can be linked to outbreaks in correctional facilities? (data from our report Mass Incarceration, COVID-19, and Community Spread)
- State prison and jail population data for February 2022. (Previous data is available for October 2021, June 2021, February 2021, December 2020, September 2020, August 2020, and May 2020.) Data availability varies by state.
Our other articles about Arkansas