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Imprisonment in Four Countries

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 1987

This study compares the likelihood that persons arrested for robbery, burglary, or theft will be sentenced to prison in the United States, Canada, England, and the Federal Republic of Germany.


The United States, Canada, and England have 48 to 52 percent of those arrested for robbery imprisoned. For theft, imprisonment rates range from 14 percent in Canada and England to 18 percent in the United States. For burglary, Canada has the lowest imprisonment rate (23 percent), followed by England (30 percent) and the United States (35 percent). Because of data limitations, the aforementioned figures are based on the assumption that there is no charge reduction in Canada and England. Imprisonment rates for the United States, on the other hand, include a correction for charge reduction. This assumption of no charge reduction in Canada and England tends to understate imprisonment rates for these countries. If the three countries are compared with no charge reduction correction, then the United States has the lowest imprisonment rate for robbery, a rate for burglary near the midpoint of the rates for Canada and England, and an imprisonment rate for theft within three percentage points of the other two countries. Because there are not comparable arrest statistics for West Germany, the data for this country are based on adults 'suspected' of crimes and adults formally 'charged' with offenses. For robbery, the incarceration rate is 23 to 58 percent, and for theft, it is 4 to 9 percent. The imprisonment rate for burglary in West Germany overlaps the rates for the other three countries. 3 tables and 4 footnotes.

Date Published: February 1, 1987