Caribbean countries among those with highest prisoner to population ratios

Web Posted - Mon Feb 05 2007

The countries of the Caribbean, including Barbados, are among those with the highest prison populations when compared to national populations.

This is based on the World Prison Population List, which was prepared by the King's College London International Centre for Prison Studies.

It finds that the United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, with 738 per 100,000 of the national population. This figure is followed by Russia (611), St. Kitts & Nevis (547), US Virgin Islands (521), Turkmenistan (c. 489), Belize (487), Cuba (c. 487), Palau (478), British Virgin Islands (464), Bermuda (463), Bahamas (462), Cayman Islands (453), American Samoa (446), Belarus (426), and Dominica (419). According to the list, Barbados has a prison population rate of 367 per 100,000, based on 2005 figures which stated the total prison population at 997 persons out of a national population 0f 272,000.

It was noted that prison population rates varied considerably between different regions of the world, and between different parts of the same continent. For example, in the Americas, the median rate for South American countries was 165.5, whereas for Caribbean countries it was 324.

In the Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis had the highest prison density (547), or 214 persons out of its national population of 39,100. Based on statistics from the US State Department, Haiti had the lowest density in the region (43), 3,670 prisoners out of a national population of 8.5 million. Despite having a prison population of 4,913, Jamaica's prison density was listed as 182 because of its population of 2.7 million. Similarly, Trinidad and Tobago's prison density was listed as 296, even though that country had 3,851 prisoners out of a total population of 1.3 million.

Cuba had the highest prison population in the Caribbean, with a researcher from Oslo University estimating this figure at 55,000 out of a national population of 11.3 million. This was followed by Puerto Rico with 14,239 prisoners out of a population of four million leading to a density of 356.

The report noted that more than 9.5 million people are being held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees, or as sentenced prisoners. It also found that prison populations are growing in many parts of the world.