Study: Black Americans Incarcerated at Roughly Five Times Rate of Whites

In Summary

A report from The Sentencing Project is highlighting racial inequities within United States prisons, finding that Black and Latinx Americans are more likely than whites to be incarcerated. 

Astonishing discrepancies exist among Black and Latinx people imprisoned in the United States compared to their overall population representation, including Black Americans being incarcerated at a rate roughly five times that of white Americans, per CNN’s Christina Carrega

RELATED: Black Woman Goes to Prison While White Woman Gets Probation in Same Ohio County 

Using statistics and estimates from recent years from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, The Sentencing Project published a report that found that one in 81 Black adults per 100,000 persons in the United States is serving time in a state prison. 

Those individuals are not alone though, considering Latinx people are 1.3 times more likely than white people to be housed in state prisons. 

“Black and Hispanic offenders — particularly those who are young, male and unemployed — are more likely than their white counterparts to be sentenced to prison than similarly situated white offenders,” per Cassia Spohn of Arizona State University’s School of Criminology, who is cited as a reference in the report. “Other categories of racial minorities — those convicted of drug offenses, those who victimize whites, those who accumulate more serious prior criminal records or those who refuse to plead guilty or are unable to secure pretrial release — also may be singled out for more punitive treatment.” 

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Moreover, half of the prisoners in 12 states are Black, with California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey and Wisconsin being the only states with a Black-to-white gap greater than 9-to-1. 

Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst for The Sentencing Project and the author of the report, said true criminal justice reforms are impossible to achieve without acknowledging the system’s racist foundations.  

“Immediate and focused attention on the causes and consequences of racial disparities is required in order to eliminate them,” she added. 

RELATED: Formerly incarcerated still face recidivism obstacles, particularly Black men 

To reduce racial inequities, Nellis recommends abolishing mandatory sentences for all crimes, requiring racial impact statements to calculate the impact of new crime legislation on different communities, and repealing existing racially biased laws and decriminalizing low-level drug offenses.

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