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South Carolina has an incarceration rate of 754 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 many wealthy democracies do. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in South Carolina and why.

Are you looking for information on what jails and prisons in South Carolina are doing to stop COVID-19? See our regularly-updated coronavirus response page.

38,000 people from South Carolina are behind bars

Pie chart showing that 38,000 South Carolina residents are locked up in federal prisons, state prisons, local jails and other types of facilities

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 South Carolina from 1978 to 2015 Also see these South Carolina graphs:

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

Today, South Carolina’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 South Carolina. The incarceration rate of 698 per 100,000 for the United States and 754 for South Carolina 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 South Carolina

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

See also our detailed graphs about Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks in South Carolina prisons and jails.

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

Pie chart showing that 74,000 South Carolina residents are in various types of correctional facilities or under criminal justice supervision on probation or parole

Our other articles about South Carolina

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