“Criminal

In both the UK and the US violent crime has recently been rising, records show. There are now also record numbers of individuals behind bars around the world, about 10.35 million, a figure that has increased by 20% in under two decades. The highest number of these are in the United States, where those convicted are serving increasingly long sentences.

Among the global prison population, over 700,000 are women and girls, a figure that has been rising higher than for males. A high proportion of women behind bars have mental health problems and have been victims of abuse.

Despite these rises, we are not living in the most violent era of history (in 1991 the violent crime figures in the US were about double those of today). While in the UK, although police figures indicate that crime is rising, a national crime survey found that most crimes "either fell or were at a similar level".

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, prisons are closing due to a lack of inmates to fill cells, as our reporter discovered on a visit to a Dutch jail, though this does not necessarily mean that crime is dramatically falling.

These examples show that statistics can be confusing, and there is often more going on than the numbers suggest, such as falling police officers, longer jail terms, to a rise in community sentencing.

That's why we are taking a look at some of these issues, to tackle the misconceptions about criminals and the factors that shape crime.

In a BBC Future special, we will look at the consequences of locking up women who are mentally ill, discovering how personality changes in prison and looking at the mistaken idea that long prison sentences reduce crime. For BBC Capital, we’ll also consider how the rich really hide their money, and can get away with billions.

Turn back to this page again to see more stories as they are published throughout April and May 2018.

So far, the line-up includes:

Criminal Myths is a new series curated and edited by Melissa Hogenboom. She is @melissasuzanneh on Twitter. Are there other factors or questions you think we should explore? Let us know your opinions on the social links below, or share your thoughts with the hashtag #criminalmyths.

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