Wisconsin has an incarceration rate of 663 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 Wisconsin and why.
Jump to COVID-19 data.
41,000 people from Wisconsin are behind bars
Additionally, the number of people impacted by county and city jails in Wisconsin is much larger than the graph above would suggest, because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. Each year, at least 129,000 different people are booked into local jails in Wisconsin.
Rates of imprisonment have grown dramatically in the last 40 years
Also see these Wisconsin graphs:
Today, Wisconsin’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,
and American Indians/Native Americans
in Wisconsin prisons and jails.
Wisconsin's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails
Data on COVID-19 in Wisconsin jails and prisons
We gave Wisconsin a failing grade in September 2021 for its response to the coronavirus in prisons, noting that:
- As of summer 2021, adult correctional facilities in Wisconsin are operating at 113% capacity.
- While other states suspended all co-pays in prisons during the pandemic, Wisconsin only suspended co-pays for people exhibiting COVID symptoms, discouraging people from seeking medical care.
For more detail, see our report States of Emergency. Or check out these other resources:
- Our Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic page tracks criminal justice policy responses to the coronavirus all 50 states
- As of late April 2021, only 40% of corrections staff in Wisconsin prisons had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine
- How crowded are Wisconsin prisons, as of December 2020?
- How many COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin communities can be linked to outbreaks in correctional facilities? (data from our report Mass Incarceration, COVID-19, and Community Spread)
- We're tracking Wisconsin's medical copay policies in prisons during the pandemic
- State prison and jail population data for May, August, September, December 2020, and February, June, October 2021 (data availability varies by state)
Our other articles about Wisconsin
Prison-based gerrymandering in Wisconsin