About World Prison Brief

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About the World Prison Brief

A unique resource          

The World Prison Brief (WPB) is a unique database that provides free access to information about prison systems throughout the world. It was launched in 2000 using data compiled by Roy Walmsley, Founder of the World Prison Brief. Country information is updated on a monthly basis, using data largely derived from governmental or other official sources. Each country page gives information on:

  • total prison populations, and prison population rates per 100,000 of the national population
  • the use of imprisonment for women, juveniles and foreign nationals
  • the extent of pre-trial/remand imprisonment
  • prison overcrowding, as indicated by occupancy levels
  • news and official reports on prison conditions
  • details of local organisations and other resources
  • department or ministry responsible for prisons, with contact information 

The WPB also presents ‘highest to lowest’ country lists, enabling country-by-country and regional comparisons to be made of prison population rates and totals, occupancy rates, and proportions of pre-trial/remand prisoners, female prisoners and foreign prisoners.

Trend data         

The WPB provides historic trend data on total prison populations and prison population rates per 100,000 of the general population, where data are available. On the ‘Overview’ tab for each country, available figures are shown at two yearly intervals from the year 2000; figures for earlier years can be found on the country’s ‘Further Information’ tab. The WPB also gives trend data on pre-trial/remand prison populations of over 180 countries, and on female prisoners in over 170 countries.


WPB data are regularly relied on by monitoring bodies and regional standards agencies, national governments, journalists, civil society organisations, economists, academics and social researchers.  The data are used as indicators of human development and for purposes of international comparison on the use of imprisonment. Timely, accurate and consistent data on global prison populations and trends serve vital functions. They facilitate evidence-based debate on the use, effects and costs of imprisonment and available alternatives. They inform policy considerations on how to respond to crime. They help ensure transparency and accountability for criminal justice policy. They also aid the monitoring of compliance with international human rights standards.

How to reference WPB data      

If you refer to or cite any information from the World Prison Brief database, the source should be cited as: World Prison Brief, Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research.

Gaps in available data   

The WPB holds statistics on 223 jurisdictions. For some of these, data are not available for certain categories of prisoner. For example, there are no data on the numbers detained pre-trial or prior to sentencing in China. The WPB does not hold statistics on Eritrea, North Korea or Somalia, because of the difficulty of accessing prisoner data on these states (although some general information on the prison systems of these countries is provided on the site). The WPB also holds no data on a small number of jurisdictions that are not fully recognised internationally and some territories with very small populations.

Can you help improve our data?              

We aim to make the World Prison Brief as comprehensive as possible, but our country information is only as accurate as the sources we can draw on. If you can provide more recent or accurate statistics, reports or resources than those shown on this site, please contact Helen Fair on h.fair@bbk.ac.uk 

Can you donate to support the WPB? 

We receive no external funding for our work in sourcing and compiling prison populations data, hosting the WPB website and keeping it regularly updated with the most recent information available. To help sustain this unique, open access resource, please donate