Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

Visualized: Oklahoma is a Leader in Locking People Up

Most Oklahomans will never step inside a state prison, so it’s hard to understand why non-felons should care that inmate education and career training programs are being eliminated.

But data from the U.S. Department of Justice suggests that one in 12 Oklahomans have been convicted of a felony. Justin Jones, director of the state Department of Corrections, says that’s probably a conservative estimate.

About 8,000 people leave Oklahoma prisons in a typical year, and finding a job is a key part of preventing offenders from returning to prison, criminologists and corrections researchers say. Educating inmates and giving them career training helps reduce recidivism, studies show, and reducing the number of people in Oklahoma prisons saves taxpayers about $20,000 a year, per inmate.

Oklahoma spends a lot of money on prisons — over $459 million last year, which is more than the state spends on courts, the Highway Patrol and all state police agencies combined.

And Oklahoma locks a lot of people up. The Sooner State state sits near the top of the list in every measure of state prisoners per capita.

Prisoners per 100,000 Residents

Source: U.S. Department of Justice | Download Data

Joe Wertz | StateImpact Oklahoma / Source: U.S Department of Justice

Female incarceration rates by state. Click here to explore our interactive map.

Click around and explore the map — it’s interactive! — and don’t forget to pan over and check out Hawaii and Alaska. We’ve also broken the data down by gender, so take a look at the differences in male and female incarceration throughout the U.S.

Joe Wertz | StateImpact Oklahoma / Source: U.S Department of Justice

Male incarceration rates by state. Click here to explore our interactive map.


This data isn’t perfect, and there are differences in state prison systems.

The District of Columbia isn’t included because felons sentenced there are the responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Other states — Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont — have an integrated state prison and jail system, so those totals include both prison and jail populations.

Most states count the number of prisoners under their “jurisdiction,” regardless of where the inmate is incarcerated or supervised. But numbers from Arizona and Missouri only represent prisoners in physical custody of authorities at those state prisons.

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