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In the U.S., Black Imprisonment Rate Rises

Blacks in the U.S. are disproportionately imprisoned more than their white counterparts, a study released by The Sentencing Project finds.

In the report, “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons,” researchers found that African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites.

In New Jersey, Iowa, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin, the disparity is more than 10 to 1.

The study suggests several factors in the criminal justice system that may explain why Blacks are more likely to be jailed.

“The particular drivers of disparity may be related to policy, offending, implicit bias, or some combination,” the report states. “Regardless of the causes, however, the simple fact of these disparities should be disturbing given the consequences for individuals and communities.”

According to researchers, racial disparities in incarceration can arise from a high rate of Black incarceration, a low rate of white incarceration, or a varying combination of circumstances.

Here are some key findings of the study:

  • In twelve states, more than half of the prison population is Black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Maryland, whose prison population is 72% African American, tops the nation.
  • In eleven states, at least 1 in 20 adult Black males is in prison.
  • In Oklahoma, the state with the highest overall Black incarceration rate, 1 in 15 Black males ages 18 and older is in prison.

“Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focused attention on reduction of disparities,” the report states. “Since the majority of people in prison are sentenced at the state level rather than the federal level, it is critical to understand the variation in racial and ethnic composition across states, and the policies and the day-to-day practices that contribute to this variance.”

Click here for the full report.