1 in 3 Black men are in prison in America. This isn’t only a Black issue, but people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their White counterparts. Racial disparities in the criminal justice system threaten communities of color by disenfranchising people of color by limiting voting rights, and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education. More than 60 percent of prison inmates in the U.S. identify as African American or Latino despite making up only 30 percent of the population. When it comes to the private prisons; a recent study by Christopher Petrella, a doctoral candidate at U.C. Berkeley, finds that the majority of these inmates are more likely to serve time in a private prison than their White counterparts. Why? Because private prisons seek the least expensive prisoner to generate the highest possible profit.
Some factors highlighting the issue of a bias process include:
- People of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, but only account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Latino men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 Caucasian men.
- According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 3 Black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. People of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.
- Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their White peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics make up one-fifths of confined youth today.
- According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.
- According to the Sentencing Project, African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. Even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.
- As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percentover the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.
- According to the Human Rights Watch, the “war on drugs” has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than Whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about 1 in 3 of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African Americans.
America’s incarceration trends are alarming, and from 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people:
- Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of the world’s prisoners.
- Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, then 1 in every 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control.
- Racial Disparities in Incarceration:
- African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population.
- African Americans are incarcerated at nearly 6 times the rate of Caucasians.
- Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 1 quarter of the US population.
- According to Unlocking America, if African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of Caucasians, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
- 1 in 6 Black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, 1 in 3 Black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.
- 1 in 100 African American women are in prison.
- According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice; nationwide, African Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, and out of 44% of the youth who are detained, 46% of the youth are judicially waived to criminal court, while 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons.
Below are the Drug Sentencing Disparities throughout America that shows a large racial divide between how people of color and Whites are treated under the law:
- About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illegal drug.
- 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.
- African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those are arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those are in state prison for a drug offense.
- According to the Sentencing Project, African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as Whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).
- Inner city crime is prompted by social and economic isolation.
- African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession which increases the crime and drug arrests.
- In 2002, Blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did Whites, despite that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the US are White or Latino.
- Zero Tolerance policies as a result of perceived problems of school violence carries an adverse affect on Black children.
- 35% of Black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Latinos and 15% of Whites.
Effects of incarceration show that:
- Jail reduces work time of young people over the next decade by 25-30 percent when compared with arrested youths who were not incarcerated.
- Jails and prisons both hold highly concentrated infectious diseases.
- Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners are re-offenders
- Exorbitant Cost of Incarceration. About 70 billion dollars are spent on corrections annually.
- Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly 200 billion we spend annually on public safety.