The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and within the United States, the top 7 states with the highest incarceration rates are all Southern states (Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina). Even as states like Georgia cautiously explore ways to reduce their prison populations, more and more prison beds are added, increasingly by for-profit companies with little oversight.
The region's addiction to incarceration is not a reflection of higher crime rates or a stronger commitment to public safety. To the contrary, the overuse of incarceration as a "solution" to drug addiction, mental illness, and poverty has caused a number of serious problems: the level of overcrowding in prisons and jails throughout the South is inherently dangerous; prisons and jails compromise public health systems by making people sicker and disrupting care; and conditions inside prisons and jails often contribute to the creation of a culture of violence and abuse that extends beyond the prison walls. Violence, guard brutality, extreme heat, poor medical care, and intolerable living conditions have all been challenged in litigation brought by SCHR.