Sentencing Project Finds that Blacks Locked Up in state prisons at more than five times the rate of whites

From [HERE] African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states. This report documents the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics in each state, identifies three contributors to racial and ethnic disparities in imprisonment, and provides recommendations for reform. [PDF file]

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 35% of state prisoners are white, 38% are black, and 21% are Hispanic.7) In twelve states more than half of the prison population is African American. Though the reliability of data on ethnicity is not as strong as it is for race estimates, the Hispanic population in state prisons is as high as 61% in New Mexico and 42% in both Arizona and California. In an additional seven states, at least one in five inmates is Hispanic.8) While viewing percentages reveals a degree of disproportion for people of color when compared to the overall general population (where 62% are white, 13% are black, and 17% are Hispanic),9) viewing the composition of prison populations from this perspective only tells some of the story. In this report we present the rates of racial and ethnic disparity, which allow a portrayal of the overrepresentation of people of color in the prison system accounting for population in the general community.10) This shows odds of imprisonment for individuals in various racial and ethnic categories.

It is important to note at the outset that, given the absence or unreliability of ethnicity data in some states, the racial/ethnic disparities in those states may be understated. Since most Hispanics in those instances would be counted in the white prison population, the white rate of incarceration would therefore appear higher than is the case, and consequently the black/white and Hispanic/white ratios of disparity would be lower as well. In four states, data on ethnicity is not reported to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nor is it provided in the state department of corrections’ individual annual reports. These states are Alabama, Maryland, Montana, and Vermont. There are most assuredly people in prison in these states who are Hispanic, but since the state does not record this information, the exact number is unknown. [MORE]