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Utah has an incarceration rate of 435 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 almost any democracy on earth. Read on to learn more about who is incarcerated in Utah and why.

13,000 people from Utah are behind bars

Pie chart showing that 14,000 Utah 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 Utah is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 32,000 different people are booked into local jails in Utah.

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 Utah from 1978 to 2015 Also see these Utah graphs:

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

This graph excludes people held for state or federal authorities from the total count of people held in Utah jails. Because a significant proportion (30%) of the population in Utah's jails is held for the other authorities, this graph likely overstates the convicted population and understates the pre-trial population.

Today, Utah’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 Utah. The incarceration rate of 664 per 100,000 for the United States and 435 for Utah is much higher than any of the founding NATO members 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

2021 graph showing incarceration rates per 100,000 people of various racial and ethnic groups in Utah

racial and ethnic disparities between the prison/jail and general population in UT as of 2021

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

Pie chart showing that 30,000 Utah residents are in various types of correctional facilities or under criminal justice supervision on probation or parole

The high cost of being incarcerated in Utah

Prisons and jails in Utah are increasingly shifting the cost of incarceration to people behind bars and their families, hiding the true economic costs of mass incarceration:

Our other articles about Utah

Other resources

Data on COVID-19 in Utah jails and prisons

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

  • One of the easiest ways to reduce prison populations — especially during a pandemic — is to suspend admissions to prisons for technical violations of probation and parole (which are not crimes). Yet most states, including Utah, failed to utilize this simple tool of population reduction.
  • Utah failed to utilize one of the most obvious, and easiest, tools for reducing the prison population — stopping prison admissions for technical violations of probation and parole (which are not crimes).

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

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