CRIMINAL JUSTICE FACT SHEET
Incarceration Trends in America
- 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 world prisoners.
- Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 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 six times the rate of whites
- Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
- According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today's prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
- One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
- 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
- Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).
Drug Sentencing Disparities
- About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit 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 arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
- 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). (Sentencing Project)
- Inner city crime prompted by social and economic isolation
- Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
- "Get tough on crime" and "war on drugs" policies
- Mandatory minimum sentencing, especially disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession
- 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 fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic
- "Three Strikes"/habitual offender policies
- Zero Tolerance policies as a result of perceived problems of school violence; 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 Hispanics and 15% of whites
Effects of Incarceration
- 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 are recognized as settings where society's infectious diseases are highly concentrated
- Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners will reoffend
Exorbitant Cost of Incarceration: Is it Worth It?
- About $70 billion dollars are spent on corrections yearly
- Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend annually on public safety
1 In 3 Black Males Will Go To Prison In Their Lifetime, Report Warns
Posted: 10/04/2013 3:24 pm EDT Updated: 10/04/2013 3:38 pm EDT
One in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males, if current incarceration trends continue.
These are among the many pieces of evidence cited by the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for prison reform, in a report on the staggering racial disparities that permeate the American criminal justice system.
The report was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee this week in advance of the U.N.’s review of American compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights later this month. It argues that racial disparity pervades “every stage of the United States criminal justice system, from arrest to trial to sentencing.”
“Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested,” the report explains. “Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.”
The report's findings lead its authors to conclude that the U.S. is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that all citizens must be treated equally under the law. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1992.
Central to the report’s argument is the simple fact that African-American and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic men, are more likely to spend time behind bars than their white counterparts, according to recent data from the U.S. government.
The reasons for this discrepancy are widely debated, but the report discourages readers from blaming either the higher-than-average crime rate among blacks and Latinos in the U.S. or the presence of deliberate racism in the criminal justice system.
While those factors may contribute to the problem, the reasons go much deeper, the report contends.
The problem begins with police activity. According to Justice Department data cited in the report, police arrested black youth for drug crimes at more than twice the rate of white youth between 1980 and 2010, nationwide. Yet a 2012 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that white high-school students were slightly more likely to have abused illegal drugs within the past month than black students of the same age.
Blacks are also far more likely than whites to be stopped by the police while driving. The Sentencing Project report largely attributes the racial disparities in both traffic and drug arrests to “implicit racial bias” on the part of the police.
“Since the nature of law enforcement frequently requires police officers to make snap judgments about the danger posed by suspects and the criminal nature of their activity, subconscious racial associations influence the way officers perform their jobs,” the report contends.
The disparities don’t end with arrests. Because blacks and Latinos are generally poorer than whites, they are more likely to rely on court-appointed public defenders, who tend to work for agencies that are underfunded and understaffed. In 2012, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, more than 70 percent of public defender offices reported that they were struggling to come up with the funding needed to provide adequate defense services to poor people. By last March, the problem was so bad that Attorney General Eric Holder declared the public defense system to be in a "state of crisis.”
Racial disparities within the justice system have been exacerbated by the war on drugs, the report argues. The drug war led the country’s population of incarcerated drug offenders to soar from 42,000 in 1980 to nearly half a million in 2007. From 1999 to 2005, African Americans constituted about 13 percent of drug users, but they made up about 46 percent of those convicted for drug offenses, the report points out.
Marc Mauer, director of the Sentencing Project and an author of the report, said he’s optimistic that the country’s criminal justice policies are starting to change. “There’s much that needs to be done, but we haven’t seen this much progress around these issues in quite some time,” he said.
He mentioned the Justice Department’s recent decision to scale back the war on drugs and a series of bipartisan state laws aimed at reducing harsh prison sentences for low-level drug offenders.
The report offers 10 specific steps that the U.S. could take to cut down on such disparities, including fully funding the country’s public defenders, prohibiting law-enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling and establishing a commission to develop recommendations for “systemic reform” of the country’s police bureaus and courts.
Whether the U.N. review could contribute to these changes isn’t clear. Even if the U.N. finds the U.S. to be in violation of the treaty, the range of repercussions is essentially limited to scolding.
Still, Mauer said, “It’s a question of making a moral statement."
Where Are 1.5 Million Missing Black Men?
Census data of male-female ratios by race underscore disproportionate homicide and incarceration rates and reveal HIV infection disparities
BY BRENDEN SHUCART
JULY 06 2015 4:00 AM ET
One and a half million black men are missing. For every 100 black women between the ages of 25 and 54 living free in the United States, there are only 83 men. By contrast, for every 100 white women from that age group, there are 99 white men according to a recent study conducted by The New York Times using data found the 2010 Census.
The gender gap stretches back at least 50 years, but it took on new dimensions in the 1980s when deindustrialization, deurbanization, and the War on Drugs gutted the economic coherence of black communities and turned black men in America into what the Times calls an “underclass,” lacking sufficient opportunities for employment and operating under an expectation of criminality.
“Obviously some of those missing men are also a part of [the gay] community,” laments Mister Wallace, a member of the Chicago-based artist collective Banjee Report. “If they were here it would mean more black gay men making art and holding positions of leadership, more magazine covers featuring black artists, more black writers writing articles, more opportunities for a black perspective to influence the gay community.”
Approximately 600,000 of these missing men are behind bars, the majority of whom are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. Of the remaining 900,000 missing black men, it is impossible to state with certainty how many have died, but it is without a doubt a very large number. Many were claimed by violence: Homicide is the leading cause of death among young black men in America. And many more will be claimed by heart disease, respiratory infections, and complications related to HIV, all of which black men are both more likely to acquire and to be killed by than either black women or whites in America. The Times study has surprisingly little to say about HIV, considering that of the 1.1 million people living with the virus in the United States, more than 506,000 are black. Though the black community makes up 12% of the national population, it suffers 44% of new infections, 49% of AIDS diagnoses, and nearly half of HIV-related deaths.
“One in three black gay men will contract HIV,” says Alex Garner of the National Minority AIDS Council. This is despite evidence that black men — and especially gay black men — are more likely to have fewer partners, to use a condom with those partners, and to have gotten tested within the past year than their non-black counterparts. “Compare that to the one in six white gay men who will become infected,” Garner continues. “The high rates of infection among black gay men are because the incidence within the community is so high. It’s been left unchecked for decades.”
Knowing and understanding numbers like these are important early steps in addressing the HIV crisis, but they can also contribute to the stigma against black men that already hangs all too heavily over both the digital and real-life spaces where gay men congregate to meet and cruise. “Statistics about black men being more likely to be infected by HIV make black men less desirable,” notes Wallace. “Black boys growing up want to date other black boys, but when 1.5 million black boys are missing, interracial dating becomes a necessity.”
Gay culture is, at its best, a space where many seemingly contrary ideas and identities intersect, mingle, and find some measure of harmony. It’s a space on the Venn diagram where each of America’s varied regional, racial, and religious subcultures intersect; the gay bar, the Pride parade, even the bathhouse present opportunities to interact with people who come from backgrounds that many of our straight siblings will never have the privilege to experience. At our best, these encounters teach us compassion and empathy for those born into different tribes. Sadly, with every victory the gay rights movement wins, it has begun to feel that we get a little further from that ideal.
Does mainstream acceptance come at the cost of queer compassion?
Oakland-based artist Brontez Purnell isn’t sure. “I want to say that the gay world is a place where all of that shit could be fixed or worked on, but I don’t know. I’d like to believe that your average gay is less likely to harbor racist feelings, but I feel like we’ve become estranged. That’s the only word I can think of which fits.”
RACE IN AMERICA
The Methodology: 1.5 Million Missing Black Men
APRIL 20, 2015
By Justin Wolfers, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy
Our analysis of the number of missing African-American men relies on the 2010 census, the government’s most recent attempt to count all residents. The census also contains counts of people in prison and in other institutions such as homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes and domestic military barracks.
According to the Census Bureau, there were 7.046 million black men 25 to 54 who were not incarcerated in 2010 and 8.503 million black women in this category. The difference between these two figures leads to our headline of 1.5 million missing black men.
Demographers refer to the 25-to-54 age group as prime age, a term this post will use frequently.
Using census data, we estimated that about 625,000 prime-age black men were imprisoned, compared with 45,000 black women. This gap — of 580,000 — accounts for more than one-third of the overall gap.
It is the result of sharply different incarceration rates for black men and any other group. The rate for prime-age black men is 8.2 percent, compared with 1.6 percent for nonblack men, 0.5 percent for black women and 0.2 percent for nonblack women.
The remaining roughly 900,000 missing men are the result of several factors, the largest of which is likely to be differing mortality rates, demographers say. Our analysis did not attempt to estimate precisely how much of the gap stems from mortality; doing so would involve collecting mortality data over each of the last 54 years. But different homicide rates alone appear to account for at least 200,000 missing black men. And many other causes of death — accidents, heart disease and respiratory disease, for example — are also more common among black boys and men than black girls and women or white girls and women.
As a rough estimate, it seems likely that mortality accounts for roughly half of the remaining 900,000 missing men, but we would not be surprised if the true answer fell anywhere between one-third (300,000) and three-quarters (almost 700,000).
After mortality and incarceration, other factors play smaller roles. There are more black men than women deployed in the military overseas, for example, but the difference is not large in terms of raw numbers. There are also more female black immigrants living in this country. The Census Bureau’s undercounting of both African-Americans and men also appears to play a role.
One factor that may play a larger role than many people realize is the so-called sex ratio at birth. As in other demographic groups, more black boys than girls are born. But the difference is smaller than for other groups. For every 1,000 black babies, slightly more are female than among 1,000 white or Asian babies. Over the entire population, the difference is enough to leave tens of thousands — and perhaps into six figures — of fewer black prime-age men than there would be if the sex ratio at birth were the same as for other groups.
It’s worth noting, as our main article does, that there is also a gap between prime-age white men and women. This gap is also caused mostly by higher mortality and incarceration rates among men. But the gap among whites is of an entirely different magnitude than the gap among blacks. There are 1 percent more prime-age white women living outside of jail, compared with 21 percent more prime-age black women than men.
The regional data in the article is analyzed in several further ways. In order to ensure that gender ratios for a particular community are not distorted by the presence of a men’s jail, a women’s college or military barracks, our regional analysis focuses on the population living in households rather than group quarters.
Our definition of black is based on individuals describing that as their only race, but an analysis of people who identify themselves as both black and as another race shows the same patterns. An analysis of data from 2013 — based on the American Community Survey, which is more recent but less comprehensive than a decennial census — also shows similar conclusions.