Prison Population in Asia

Which Asian countries have the largest prison population, relative to its population size?

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Map of the prison population rate in Asia.

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On this map we can see how many inmates every country has per 100,000 inhabitants.

Thailand (563) and Turkmenistan (529) have by far the highest prison population rate in Asia. It’s not just the highest in Asia, but also one of the highest in the world. Russia and Turkey also have a fairly high prison population rate. The Maldives even has the third highest prison population rate in Asia. But this could be caused by the country’s small population size.

The lowest rates can be found in Palestine (23), India (35), Japan (38) and Pakistan (39). These are the only Asian countries with a prison population rate below 50.

There are two countries for which most of you would have probably loved to know the number. These are China and North Korea. Sadly both countries are extremely opaque when it comes to the number of prisoners or the prison and justice system in general. Even if there would be data on the size of the prison population in these countries, it would most likely not include people in work camps, re-educations camps and black jails (extralegal detention centres).

The data for this map comes from the UNODC. So, does this data tell anything about the quality of the justice system, crime rates or effectiveness of the law enforcement? Well, that’s hard to tell. For Russia, Turkmenistan and Turkey, the high prison population could be linked to the poor state of democracy in those countries. Resulting in a higher number of political prisoners.

But for the other countries, is a high prison population rate the result of a high crime rate or is the law enforcement very tough and effective? These numbers sadly don’t give an answer to this. However, if you want to answer those questions, you need to take a lot more statistics into account than just the prison population rate.

Curious about the numbers for Europe? Check out this map.

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