Prison Incarceration Rates and the National Criminal Justice Commission Act

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This post exists in the service of taking government data and showing what you can do with it.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the National Criminal Justice Commission Act (S. 714), a bill proposed by Sen. Jim Webb to create a commission to study and make recommendations on the reform of our nation’s criminal justice laws and practices. The bill is supported by 28 senators, none of whom hail from the three states with the highest incarceration rates.

Using data extracted from a .csv file from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (this data is not yet on Data.gov and really ought to be, even though I could download it very easily), state-by-state incarceration rates were put into a map of the United States by our designer Kerry:

The top three states in prison incarceration are California, Texas, and Florida. None of the senators from these three states currently support the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. The existence of a large prison population in a state may show that the endeavor of incarceration holds strong political heft. This is particularly the case with private prisons, which, as private enterprise, have considerable reason to get involved in the political process to preserve their profit. A look at private prisons and the location of them would help provide an even deeper understanding of political considerations for senators.

Below is a list of senators and the prison population of their state and their support for the bill.

Senators, Prison Population and S. 714

Senator State Cosponsor S. 714 Prison Pop.
Akaka, Daniel HI N 6,003
Alexander, Lamar TN N 26,998
Barrasso, John WY N 2,073
Baucus, Max MT N 3,592
Bayh, Evan IN N 27,380
Begich, Mark AK Y 5,223
Bennet, Michael CO N 23,130
Bennett, Robert UT N 6,459
Bingaman, Jeff NM Y 6,330
Bond, Kit MO N 30,466
Boxer, Barbara CA N 17,3320
Brown, Sherrod OH Y 51,160
Brownback, Sam KS N 8,633
Bunning, Jim KY N 21,610
Burr, Richard NC N 39,042
Burris, Roland IL Y 45,675
Byrd, Robert WV N 6,101
Cantwell, Maria WA N 17,404
Cardin, Ben MD Y 23,293
Carper, Tom DE Y 7,362
Casey, Bob PA Y 46,313
Chambliss, Saxby GA N 54,016
Coburn, Tom OK N 26,155
Cochran, Thad MS N 22,764
Collins, Susan ME N 2,246
Conrad, Kent ND N 1,450
Corker, Bob TN N 26,998
Cornyn, John TX N 173,232
Crapo, Mike ID N 7,338
DeMint, Jim SC N 25,275
Dodd, Chris CT N 21,099
Dorgan, Byron ND N 1,450
Durbin, Dick IL Y 45,675
Ensign, John NV N 12,915
Enzi, Mike WY N 2,073
Feingold, Russ WI N 23,577
Feinstein, Dianne CA N 173,320
Gillibrand, Kirsten NY Y 62,211
Graham, Lindsay SC Y 25,275
Grassley, Chuck IA N 8,778
Gregg, Judd NH N 2,827
Hagan, Kay NC Y 39,042
Harkin, Tom IA Y 8,778
Hatch, Orrin UT Y 6,459
Hutchison, Kay Bailey TX N 173,232
Inhofe, Jim OK N 26,155
Inouye, Daniel HI N 6,003
Isakson, Johnny GA N 54,016
Johanns, Mike NE N 4,419
Johnson, Tim SD N 3,358
Kaufman, Ted DE N 7,362
Kennedy, Edward MA Y 11,662
Kerry, John MA Y 11,662
Klobuchar, Amy MN N 9,964
Kohl, Herb WI N 23,577
Kyl, Jon AZ N 38,988
Landrieu, Mary LA Y 38,137
Lautenberg, Frank NJ N 26,490
Leahy, Patrick VT Y 2,082
Levin, Carl MI N 50,482
Lieberman, Joe CT N 21,099
Lincoln, Blanche AR N 14,552
Lugar, Richard IN N 27,380
Martinez, Mel FL N 100,494
McCain, John AZ N 38,988
McCaskill, Claire MO Y 30,466
McConnell, Mitch KY N 21,610
Menendez, Bob NJ N 26,490
Merkley, Jeff OR N 14,079
Mikulski, Barbara MD N 23,293
Murkowski, Lisa AK N 5,223
Murray, Patty WA Y 17,404
Nelson, Ben NE N 4,419
Nelson, Bill FL N 100,494
Pryor, Mark AR N 14,552
Reed, Jack RI N 4,190
Reid, Harry NV Y 12,915
Risch, Jim ID N 7,338
Roberts, Pat KS N 8,633
Rockefeller, John WV N 6,101
Sanders, Bernie VT N 2,082
Schumer, Chuck NY Y 62,211
Sesssions, Jeff AL N 29,871
Shaheen, Jeanne NH N 2,827
Shelby, Richard AL N 29,871
Snowe, Olympia ME Y 2,246
Specter, Arlen PA Y 46,313
Stabenow, Debbie MI N 50,482
Tester, Jon MT Y 3,592
Thune, John SD N 3,358
Udall, Mark CO Y 23,130
Udall, Tom NM N 6,330
Vitter, David LA N 38,137
Voinovich, George OH N 51,160
Warner, Mark VA Y 39,224
Webb, Jim VA Y 39,224
Whitehouse, Sheldon RI Y 4,190
Wicker, Roger MS N 22,764
Wyden, Ron OR Y 14,079

* According to the data from Bureau of Justice Statistics, The total US prison population as of June 30, 2008 was 1,610,584

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  • Jon

    Great idea my interest is learning how many dead voters voted in the last presidential election.

  • Sherwood MacRae

    What is missing from this data is the total number – nationwide, as a percentage of our total population.

    Let’s face it, as long as we allow our “representatives” to compare the data from their States with the data from others, they are prone to ignore the obvious.

  • Paul, you are awesome. This post is just further proof. Great, great example. A great example of the shortcoming of data.gov as well. This is important stuff.