Reason has a post commenting on a NYT piece today studying this issue. All of this is likely followup interest after the news the other week that 1 in 100 adults in the US are incarcerated (or some similar stat). It finds that we are not at the the top of the list among industrialized countries for the rate at which we imprison people; it is in how long we keep them there that we are the outlier. We do imprison more people for drug offenses, but we keep people in much longer for 'regular' crimes as well (owing to minimum sentencing laws). For example:
Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, according to Mr. Mauer, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.