The internet is a wonderful tool for finding information. I heard something on the radio a few weeks ago that peaked my interest in the number of people in jail in the US vs. other countries, so I googled around and found the following:
"Over 9 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees (remand prisoners) or having been convicted and sentenced. About half of these are in the United States (2.03m), Russia (0.86m) or China (1.51m plus pre-trial detainees and prisoners in ‘administrative detention’)."
"The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 701 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia (606), Belarus (554), Kazakhstan and the U.S. Virgin Islands (both 522), the Cayman Islands (501), Turkmenistan (489), Belize (459), Bermuda (447), Suriname (437), Dominica (420) and Ukraine (415)."
"H o w e v e r, more than three fifths of countries (60.5%) have rates below 150 per 100,000. (The United Kingdom’s rate of 141 per 100,000 of the national population places it above the midpoint in the World List; it is the highest among countries of the European Union.)"
Source: World Prison Population List (Fifth Edition). Communication Development Unit, Home Office, London. 2003.
And in the USA... "Among the 1.4 million inmates sentenced to more than one year at year-end 2003, an estimated 44 percent were black, 35 percent white, 19 percent Hispanic and 2 percent of other races. The percent of inmates who were racial or ethnic minorities has changed little since 1995."
"As of December 31, 2003, one in every 140 U.S. residents was confined in a state or federal prison or a local jail."
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Press Release: U.S. Prison Population Approaches 1.5 Million. November 7, 2004. For comparitive purposes:
US population by races: White = 75.1%; Hispanic = 12.5%; Black = 12.3%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000
Another topic I've always wondered about is the sale of weapons
World Weapons Sales
"Since 1992, the United States has exported more than $142 billion dollars worth of weaponry to states around the world. The U.S. dominates this international arms market, supplying just under half of all arms exports in 2001, roughly two and a half times more than the second and third largest suppliers. U.S. weapons sales help outfit non-democratic regimes, soldiers who commit gross human rights abuses against their citizens and citizens of other countries, and forces in unstable regions on the verge of, in the middle of, or recovering from conflict."
"U.S.-origin weapons find their way into conflicts the world over. The United States supplied arms or military technology to more than 92% of the conflicts under way in 1999. The costs to the families and communities afflicted by this violence is immeasurable. But to most arms dealers, the profit accumulated outweighs the lives lost. In the period from 1998-2001, over 68% of world arms deliveries were sold or given to developing nations, where lingering conflicts or societal violence can scare away potential investors."
Source: Federation of American Scientists. http://www.fas.org/asmp/fast_facts.htm#USArmsExports
So, we are, in fact, "Number One" in some things - makes you feel proud, eh?