Understanding Incarceration in the U.S.

In the time since my return from Scandinavia, I have continued my research into comparing the United States prisons to prisons around the world but first, I had to understand the system here in the United States. Jails, prisons, public, private-there are so many elements I needed to wrap my head around before I could make an educated comparison. Using the Federal Bureau of prisons website (https://www.bop.gov/locations/list.jsp) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics site (https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=13), I have created this diagram showing all of the different types of facilities we have here in the U.S. It is still a work in progress, as daily I find things to add and adjust on this diagram, but I believe I am on the right track.

As I continue to enhance this breakdown, I will also look into how other countries around the world break down their prisons systems; are there similar systems and how to others drastically differ from ours? The United States has the highest prison population in the world which may be why there is a need for such a system, but other countries such as China and Brazil also have very high inmate populations- are their systems similar or different?

It is difficult to compare the U.S. system to those of Scandinavia due to the drastic difference in not only total inmate population, but each of the Scandi countries is much smaller than the US; around 5 million per Scandi country when the U.S. is home to about 323 million people.


In just two days, I will be leaving for Finland, Sweden, and Norway to tour prisons through the opportunity of the John Worthington Ames Scholarship from the Boston Architectural College! I am very excited and honored to visit the Criminal Sanctions Agency in Helsinki where they have extended to myself as well as my colleague Kirsten Soderlund their warmest welcomes and offered us tours, lunch dates, and interviews of their carceral facilities. Following Finland, we will travel to Stockholm, then Gothenburg, Sweden where we will meet with various prison groups including the Kriminalvården, Region Väst, touring several prison facilities. And finally, I will tour Halden Prison in Norway and meet with the warden of the facility. Please stay tuned for our upcoming posts, pictures, and experiences of both the prison systems and the culture/architecture of Finland, Sweden, and Norway.