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Montana has an incarceration rate of 789 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 Montana and why.

Jump to COVID-19 data.

7,400 people from Montana are behind bars

Pie chart showing that 7,400 Montana residents are locked up in federal prisons, state prisons, local jails and other types of facilities

Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Montana is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 18,000 different people are booked into local jails in Montana.

Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years

graph showing the number of people in state prison and local jails per 100,000 residents in Montana from 1978 to 2015 Also see these Montana graphs:

Graph showing the number of people in Montana jails who were convicted and the number who were unconvicted, for the years 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1999, 2005, and 2013.

Today, Montana’s incarceration rates stand out internationally

graphic comparing the incarceration rates of the founding NATO members with the incarceration rates of the United States and the state of Montana. The incarceration rate of 664 per 100,000 for the United States and 789 for Montana is much higher than any of the founding NATO membersIn 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

2010 graph showing incarceration rates per 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic groups in Montana

racial and ethnic disparities between the prison/jail and general population in MT as of 2010

See also our detailed graphs about Whites, Hispanics, and American Indians/Native Americans in Montana prisons and jails.

Montana's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails

Pie chart showing that 17,000 Montana residents are in various types of correctional facilities or under criminal justice supervision on probation or parole

Data on COVID-19 in Montana jails and prisons

We gave Montana a failing grade in September 2021 for its response to the coronavirus in prisons, noting that:

  • Montana released fewer people on parole in 2020 than they had in 2019, and approved a smaller percent of parole applications.
  • Montana is one of 15 prison systems that has not yet vaccinated more than 60% of the incarcerated population.

For more detail, see our report States of Emergency. Or check out these other resources:

Our other articles about Montana

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