Crime Archives

December 17, 2007

World Inmate Populations

Prison_Barbed_Wire.jpg Every year, the editors of The World Almanac have to decide what information to include, what to update, what to cut. Among the data that didn't make it into this year's edition were statistics from the International Centre for Prison Studies, which issues a World Prison Population List. The printed list and online database (which is updated monthly) contain such statistics as prison population size and incarceration rates in different countries.

According to the database, the U.S. has the world's largest prison population: 2,245,189 prisoners (including pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners) as of mid-2006. China followed with 1,565,771; Russia 889,598; Brazil 419,551; and India 332,112.

The U.S. also led in the number of prisoners per 100,000 population: 750 as of mid-2006. French Guiana came in second with 630, followed by Russia with 628, Saint Kitts and Nevis with 604, and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 549.

Keep in mind, though, that data is not always comparable between countries because of estimates, variation in source dates, and different methods of counting prisoners.

[Figures come from official administrative sources in each country. Countries for which official data was not available include Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, North Korea, and Somalia.]

World Prison Brief online database
World Prison Population List (7th edition) (PDF)
International Centre for Prison Studies (King's College, University of London)

Previously: "The U.S. Inmate Population"

Photo: "Prison barbed wire," Santa Fe, NM, by Dana Gonzales.

December 12, 2007

The U.S. Inmate Population

His_Cuffs.jpg I previously blogged about the numbers of U.S. citizens arrested abroad. Here are some facts from The World Almanac 2008 about prisoners in the U.S. (pages 110-115):

  • Number held in state and federal prisons and local jails, mid-2006: 2,245,189
  • Largest prison populations by number of inmates, mid-2006: Federal (191,080), California (175,115), Texas (172,889)
  • State or federal prison incarceration rate (sentenced prisoners* per 100,000 residents), mid-2006: 497
  • States with highest incarceration rates (sentenced prisoners* per 100,000 residents), mid-2006: Louisiana (835), Texas (687), Mississippi (661)
  • States with largest percentage increase in its prison population, mid-1995 to mid-2006: North Dakota (129.7%), West Virginia (121.8%), Wisconsin (116.6%)
  • Number of male inmates per 100,000 male U.S. residents, mid-2006: 1,384
  • Number of female inmates per 100,000 female U.S. residents, mid-2006: 134

The latest crime statistics can also be found on the websites of the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI.

*With a sentence of more than one year.

Photo: "His Cuffs" by *One*.

November 14, 2007

Fun (and Arrests) Abroad

Sub_comandancia.jpg Here's hoping that you, gentle World Almanac reader, have never and will never find yourself in a jail somewhere contemplating the following statistics:

Top 10 Cities Abroad by Number of American Citizens Arrested in 2006
  1. Tijuana, Mexico: 520
  2. Guadalajara, Mexico: 416
  3. Nuevo Laredo, Mexico: 359
  4. London, U.K.: 274
  5. Mexico City, Mexico: 208
  6. Toronto, Canada: 183
  7. Nassau, Bahamas: 108
  8. Mérida, Mexico: 99
  9. Nogales, Mexico: 96
  10. Hong Kong, China: 90

The U.S. Dept. of State supplied these figures at the request of the Los Angeles Times. Relying on reports from more than 290 cities worldwide, the State Department put the number of Americans citizens arrested abroad at 4,456 in 2006, up from 3,614 in 2005. It warned, however, that the numbers might not be comprehensive because they're provided by foreign governments and families of those arrested. Nor did the department give any detailed information on individual arrests.

State officials did tell the L.A. Times that arrests frequently occur at border checkpoints in Canada and Mexico, when American citizens are caught with alcohol, drugs, and guns. The State Department's own Special Warning About Drug Offenses Abroad states, "Every year, several hundred Americans are arrested abroad on drug charges."

Possibly more ominous than these arrest figures was this sentence in the L.A. Times article: "(The department declined to release any figures on how many Americans are incarcerated or where.)" For more information about arrests in the U.S., broken down by race, refer to page 114 of the newly released World Almanac 2008.

"Arrested Abroad: A Rare Glimpse of Trips Gone Wrong" (L.A. Times)
Assistance to U.S. Citizens Arrested Abroad (U.S. Dept. of State)

Photo by eoshea, in which the photographer's friend was nearly arrested in Cabo, Mexico, for running a red light.

May 3, 2007

Paying for Your Incarceration

jail-cell.jpg In at least two counties in Utah, if a person is incarcerated for a misdemeanor that results in a jail sentence, that person will be presented with a bill after their time has been served. What is the bill for?


As reported in this Daily Herald (Provo, Utah) article, Utah County and Cache County are billing inmates for their room and board to offset the cost of housing them. This applies only to people convicted of misdemeanors and not most federal crimes.

In general, county governments have to pay for incarcerating misdemeanants, while the federal government picks up the bill for federal crimes. Faced with budget problems, these counties decided to have the inmates pick up some of the cost.

One thing we can all take away from the article is this: if you’re planning on committing a misdemeanor that may result in jail time, do it in Utah County, where your stay will cost only $10 per day. In Cache County, you'll be billed $43 per day. Not good if you’re serving a 30-day sentence.

Jail May Start Charging ‘Rent,’Daily Herald, May 3, 2007 (Provo, Utah).

Image from bradleyjames's Flickr stream

April 23, 2007

Gun Deaths in America

guns.jpgA recent New York Times graphic does a great job of visualizing a surprising statistic about the U.S.: that firearm deaths by suicide outnumber those by homicide.

We called attention to this in the 2007 World Almanac (see also this previous The World at a Glance), drawing on National Safety Council data, but the NYT graphic is well worth a look.

Link: An Accounting of Daily Gun Deaths (The New York Times, April 22, 2007)

April 11, 2007

Cime and Punishment at the Old Bailey

In our continuing efforts to present useful research tools, well-organized historical records, and egregious time wasters sure to get you fired, I offer the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1834. Branding_WEB.jpg The site is absolutely fascinating! For those of you less familiar with English history and law, the Old Bailey is the name of the central court in London. To preserve the early history of the Old Bailey, a group of English historians (backed by several universities and the U.K. government) scanned most of the surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1834, and put them into a searchable database designed to help you find all sorts of trials including offenses against the king, murder, pickpocketing, perverting justice, and vagabonding.

After messing around with a few search terms, I found cases involving some of the worst scumbags to ever walk the streets of London, as well as some of the worst injustices imaginable. Here’s one of the more tame and common entries:

Woman, theft, 29th April, 1674.
There was also a Woman tryed for stealing a Silver Cup , the manner thus; she went to a Victualling House to drink a pot of Ale, and after having tarried some time, she desired the Woman of the House to lend her a Chamber pot, which she going to fetch it for her, she ran away with a Silver Cup that then stood on a Shelf in the Kitchen, and afterwards being taken by the Watch a night-walking, she was carried to Bridewell, where the Cup was found under her Arm, between her Arm and her Wastcoat, which she confessing where she stole it was sent to Newgate, and from thence to Justice-Hall in the Old-Baily, where being Arraigned, she was examined by the Court what she did intend to do with the Cup to which she answered, that she did intend to bring it again, whereupon she was Convicted, and put by to be transported.

Being transported meant the guilty party was sent abroad to the colonies, likely America. Not a good thing back then. But at least it wasn't this.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London, 1674 to 1834

March 20, 2007

Give and Take

lenny.jpg For the last month or so, nearly every day on my way to work, I've seen this advertisement on the subway, which reads: "Jerry Orbach gave his heart and soul to acting, and the gift of sight to two New Yorkers." The ad, which encourages people to register to become eye donors, includes a picture of the late song-and-dance man, best known for his long run on TV's Law & Order.

So organ donation was on my mind when I read this story last week. Apparently South Carolina lawmakers are considering offering inmates up to 180 days off of their sentences as incentive to voluntarily donate organs or bone marrow. Obviously, there is a shortage of viable organs donated for those in need—as of last Friday, there were about 95,000 people waiting for transplants in the U.S. alone—but there are clearly ethical issues concerning a program like this as well.

Click the links below for more information about organ donation and those waiting for transplants. (The myths link addresses serious concerns, in addition to that strangely pervasive urban legend about waking up in a bathtub full of ice...)

Organ Donation Statistics (customizable)
Myths About Organ Donation

Related: New Trend in Organ Donation Raises Questions

Jerry Orbach photo from kathryn's Flickr page

February 13, 2007

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

As we celebrate this day of love and affection, let us not forget about one of the most famous events in Prohibition-era, gangland history. On Feb. 14, 1929, seven members of Bugs Moran’s Chicago gang were lured to a parking garage by members of Al Capone’s gang, lined up against a wall, and gunned down in a most dramatic fashion.

The whole thing was arranged by Capone’s underling Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn (not to be confused with George “Machine Gun” Kelley) who was actually trying to put the hit on Moran himself. McGurn got a bootlegger associate of his to arrange a sale of whiskey to Moran's gang at a parking garage on Chicago's North Side. While the booze deal was being made, four of McGurn's assassins, who were dressed as policemen, drove up in a stolen police car and pretended they were conducting a raid. They lined Moran's men up against a wall and opened fire. Moran, who was supposed to be there, showed up late. And when he saw the police car outside of the garage, he fled.

It didn't take much for other gangs, the police, and newspaper reporters to figure out that Al Capone had ordered the hit. There was no evidence that would have stood up in court, but the war between Capone and McGurn was well known. The press ended up having a field day with the event they called the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (

FBI files: St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Al Capone, and Bugs Moran.

January 31, 2007

Hate Crimes #1

There's been some controversy over the lack of media coverage of an incident that occurred Halloween of last year. Three young white women were severely beaten by a mob of black teenagers after visiting a haunted house in Long Beach. The incident is being treated as a hate crime because the teenagers--nine of whom were found guilty by a juvenile court judge just last Friday--apparently taunted the women with racial epithets before the beating.

I also found interesting that just recently, a 71-year-old alleged Ku Klux Klansman was arrested for the 1964 kidnapping and murder of two black men. Media interest in the incident had declined after the murder of three civil rights workers that same year, and the case had gone cold for several decades.

I researched hate crime statistics for the 2007 World Almanac. According to the FBI, law-enforcement agencies from around the country reported 998 anti-white offenses in 2004. (That's about 11% of the 9,021 single-bias incidents reported to the FBI.) The same year, there were 3,281 reported anti-black offenses (about 36% of the total). Keep in mind though that not all law-enforcement agencies that report to the FBI include hate crime data. In 2004, only 16% included bias motivation as part of their reports.

Hate Crime Statistics (since 1995) (FBI)

January 23, 2007

Is That a Tenderloin in Your Pocket?

meat2.jpg A few years ago, there was no question about the most shoplifted product in the U.S.— you couldn't open a newspaper without seeing an article about over-the-counter medications stolen, presumably to be made into crystal meth. Since then, many states have taken measures to put pseudoephedrines behind secure counters, making them much harder to acquire via the 'five-finger discount.'

But as Brendan I. Koerner explained in his Slate magazine "Number 1" column, something else had to take its place as the reluctant champ of illegally-attained retail products. According to the Food Marketing Institute, meat now reigns supreme over runners-up analgesics, razor blades, and baby formula.

Koerner reports on "the lady who seemingly defied the laws of physics by stuffing an entire HoneyBaked Ham in her purse, the man discovered with a trove of filet mignons in his Jockey shorts, or the meth addict who explained that his dealer, exhibiting an atypical benevolent streak, had agreed to accept prime rib in lieu of cash," but the intriguing part is not necessarily in picturing the smuggling of a roast on one's person. Rather, it's in who is doing the thieving: employed women between 35-54 years of age are the most likely culprits.

The Purloined Sirloin (Slate)
FMI Supermarket Loss Prevention Report

Photo from SqueakyMarmot on Flickr (cc)

January 17, 2007

Crime Lingo #1: What Makes Assault so Aggravating?

If you watch your local news, you’ve probably heard certain terms thrown about without really understanding what they meant. Murder seems easy enough to comprehend. But then there’s assault. Aggravated assault. Manslaughter. And a litany of other crime jargon.

In updating the “Crime” chapter for The World Almanac 2007, I learned just how detailed crime definitions can be. According to the FBI, which maintains the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program for the U.S., assault is defined as “an unlawful attack by one person upon another.” Assaults are considered aggravated when the intent is “severe or aggravated bodily injury.”

Aggravated assaults are further subcategorized by weapons involved—by firearm (e.g., revolvers, automatic pistols, shotguns, zip guns, rifles), by knife or cutting instrument (e.g., knives, razors, hatchets, axes, cleavers, scissors, glass, broken bottles, ice picks), by some other dangerous weapon (e.g., Mace, pepper spray, clubs, bricks, jack handles, tire irons, bottles), or by “hands, fists, feet, etc.” If an incident involves different kinds of weapons, then multiple offenses are reported.

Hit the link below for comprehensive statistics on aggravated assaults from the FBI's most recent Crime in the United States report. But first, a few highlights:

  • Nationwide, an estimated 862,947 aggravated assaults were reported during 2005.
  • An examination of the 10-year trend data for the rate of aggravated assaults revealed that rate in 2005 declined 25.5 percent when compared with the rate for 1996.
  • In 2005, 25.0 percent of aggravated assaults for which law enforcement agencies submitted expanded data involved a physical (hands, fists, feet, etc.) confrontation. Twenty-one percent of aggravated assaults involved offenders with a firearm.

Aggravated Assault (FBI, Crime in the United States 2005)

December 20, 2006

Hatchet Murders and a Famous House

Lizzieborden.jpgDevotees of crime dramas and/or the paranormal might be interested in this attraction: the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, MA. The house was the site of the Aug. 4, 1892, murders of wealthy business owner Andrew J. Borden and his second wife, Abby Borden. They were found dead of multiple hatchet blows to the head. Andrew’s daughter Lizzie Borden, who was 32 at the time, was arrested for the murders but was later acquitted following a sensational trial.

The case is still technically unsolved, with people variously proclaiming Lizzie, Bridget Sullivan the maid, or some other mysterious figure to have been the murderer. Lizzie remained in Fall River the rest of her life, first sharing a house with older sister Emma and then living alone, ostracized by the community. The Borden house has been restored to the way it looked when the murders occurred. Guests can tour the house and, if that's not excitement enough, spend the night at this notorious location.

About Crime

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Crime category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

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