The United States is now home to 25% of the world's prison population. Currently there are over two million inmates in US prisons. That’s more people than the entire population of Delaware or Montana, or South Dakota.
Last August the Christian Science Monitor reported that 5.6 million Americans are in prison or have served time there, according to a report by the Justice Department. That's 1 in 37 adults living in the United States, the highest incarceration level in the world.
If current trends continue, it means that a black male in the United States would have about a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison during his lifetime. For a Hispanic male, it's 1 in 6; for a white male, 1 in 17.
Perhaps this is why running background checks on individuals has become big business.
US notches world's highest incarceration rate [Christian Science Monitor, 18-Aug-03]
Anger grows as US jails its two millionth inmate [Guardian, UK]