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11 Biggest Federal Prisons in the US

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These are 11 biggest federal prisons in the US that hold the large portion of America’s 2.2 million inmates distributed among federal and state prisons and local jails, more than any other country in the world. In fact, more than 23% of world’s inmates are serving their prison terms in the US. In 2009 1.4% of America’s adult male population was incarcerated, and the statistics were even worse for the African-American population, with 4.7% of all adult black  males being in prison.

Joseph Sohm/

Joseph Sohm/

Many experts blame this numbers on “tough on crime” laws that were adopted in the ‘80s and War on Drugs. Some 40% of all inmates are serving terms for nonviolent crimes. Despite studies that show that rehabilitation programs are both cheaper and more effective in preventing repeating offences, American legislature insists on reducing the judges’ discretion rights and forces them to issue mandatory prison sentences regardless of the circumstances of the crime. Combined with a social stigma that follows ex-convicts preventing them from starting a normal life once out of prison, this leads to high percentage of recidivism, setting up convicts on a vicious downward spiral and keeping them in penal system for life. Just like the states with high murder rates despite death sentence, harsh prison terms don’t seem to reduce crime rates.

With 707 inmates per 100,000 citizens, America is second in the world only to tiny Seychelles, who have a total of 786 inmates and a population of 90,000. Compared with other Western countries, the statistic is mind blowing. New Zeeland has 203 inmates per 100,000 citizens, France 103, Germany 78 and Netherlands 72. All these prisoners need to be housed somewhere and that is why America has built some of the biggest prisons in the world.

All prisons on our list are called Federal Correctional Complexes (FCC). These are huge institutions that combine several buildings close to each other, allowing for considerable savings by centralizing services and sharing of the resources. You will recognize most, if not all, names here, either from real life or from movies and TV series. Different facilities within the federal complex have different security levels, ranging from maximum to open work camps. 11 biggest federal prisons in the US together hold more than 42,000 inmates. Let’s see which is the biggest.

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