At the end of 2006 more than 2.25 million persons were behind bars in US prisons and jails, an all-time high, the rights group said, citing figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the US Department of Justice.
HRW said the 2006 increase was the largest one-year jump in the last six years.
The number represents an incarceration rate of 751 per 100,000 US residents — "substantially higher than that of Libya (217 per 100,000), Iran (212), and China (119)," HRW said in a statement.
For comparison, France's incarceration rate is 85 per 100,000, while the rate in Britain's is 148 and Canada is 107, HRW said.
"These figures confirm an unenviable record: the United States is the world's leading prison nation," said David Fathi, director of the US program at Human Rights Watch.
"The US is even ahead of governments like China that use prisons as a political tool," he said.
According to the group, the US prison population "has increased approximately 500 percent in the last 30 years, and continues to grow."
The government figures also show sharp racial disparities, with black men incarcerated at a rate 6.2 times higher than white men, HRW said.
"Nearly 8 percent of all black men ages 30 to 34 in the United States were incarcerated as sentenced prisoners at the end of 2006," the group said.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Aralık 2007, 10:16