Johnson County Justice Center

Johnson County Advances in Ranking Among Lowest Incarceration Rates


In October 2013, an assessment of the Johnson County jail average daily incarceration rate showed a steady decline over the past four years from an average of 162 down to a daily average of 139.

On 12 May 2014, it was reported that the average daily incarceration rate for Johnson County has continued to drop and is now about 127.

The population of Johnson County is about 136,000 people, so this means our rate of incarceration has gone from 102 per 100,000 (in October 2013) down to 93 per 100,000 (as of May 2014).

Looking Outside the U.S.

The average incarceration rate for the U.S. is 716 people per 100,000. So, we must look beyond the U.S. for comparisons and insights into how we might continue to improve our ranking.

As we improve, compared with global rankings of countries, the competition gets stiff. We’re now up against countries like Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, and Iceland. These are global leaders who invest heavily in education, social programs, and infrastructure.

If we want to compete with these global leaders, our spending needs to look like theirs, and in fact, it does. As a county, we have invested heavily in community partners that raise the quality of living for everyone. So, on a smaller scale, our investment in social programs is similar to that of these other world leaders, and the lowered incarceration rate is an expected outcome. The payback in terms of Return on Investment (ROI) is huge. People involved in the local justice system are currently exploring other ways we can improve our ranking.

Making Sense of the Data

There are 68 countries with incarceration rates lower than Johnson County — with various reasons for their success. Certainly every country has its own unique strengths and much to offer the world community, so the following is not meant to disparage or single out any particular country. In regard to lower incarceration rates there are a few factors that seem to be most influential.

What’s Next

What strategies can help us continue to improve our ranking? Here are a few to consider.


Please feel free to provide any comments or suggestions to be incorporated in the document above, or included below.

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