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Criminal Justice

Illustration of a slide, a women, a building with pillars, scales and a man holding a book

Imagine walking through the hallway of a prison. What do you see? What do you assume about the actions of the people who are locked away? What constitutes a crime, and who gets to decide?

For many of us, we believe that if a person is imprisoned, it is because they committed a crime and are serving a fair punishment for exhibiting behaviors that might harm others or threaten the safety of a community. But what if we told you that people are not protected equally? In Canada, indigenous people make up 5% of the total population, and yet constitute 30% of the prison population. Aboriginal people make up 3% of the population in Australia, yet make up 29% of the prison population. In the United States, white and black people engage in illicit drug use at similar rates, yet black people are more likely to be arrested for it. Black people comprise only 13% of the total population, but account for 34% of those incarcerated in federal prisons for drug violations. Hispanic people engage in illicit drug use at lower rates than white and black populations, and comprise just 18.5% of the U.S population. Yet, they represent 40% of those incarcerated in federal prisons for drug violations.

This inequitable representation of people in our prisons reflects inequities in criminal justice systems around the world. How does your home country compare? Explore the interactive data from the World Justice Project to learn more about how law is perceived and experienced where you live.

Mass incarceration rates point to a disproportionately high rate of imprisonment for black men, and these numbers can be traced back to early interactions with law enforcement. We know this is a heavy topic, but it's important to be informed about police brutality so we can demand reform and show up for communities of color. Read more about policing in different democracies and how that impacts policy brutality by country.

Global: Rates of Incarceration by Country and Race

Bar graph of Rates of Incarceration by Country and Race

See how the rates of incarceration highlight inequities in criminal justice systems around the world.

In Australia, Aboriginal people make up 3% of the population in Australia, yet constitute 29% of the prison population.

In the UK, people from minority ethnic groups make up only 9% of the total population, yet constitute 26% of the prison population

In Canada, Indigenous people make up 5% of the total population, yet constitute 30% of the prison population. 

In South Africa, though both White people and Coloured* people populations make up about 9% of the population in South Africa, 18.2% of prisoners are Coloured people while only 1.6% are White people.  *Coloured is an official term used in South Africa user to refer to a person who has one Black parent.

Illustration of a man reading, a scale, a woman, black bars

A Story of Hope

A juvenile Detention Center in New York City was an intake facility for young people under 15 years old who awaited trial or placement in a larger detention facility. These inmates were often the victims of an inequitable criminal justice system; 95% of the juvenile detainees were African-American or Latino, and 54% of detainees came from the same 15 low-income minority neighborhoods. Recognizing the failings of this system, the state committed to permanently closing and repurposing the facilities. Instead of maintaining the status quo by creating a new prison facility, the city committed to strengthening the local community and invested over $300 million USD in affordable housing, retail and community space in hopes of creating a brighter, more fair future for all community members.

Will you land on chutes or ladders?

Roll the dice and find out your fate

Congratulations! You earned a sticker!

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