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Black Americans are incarcerated five times the rate of White Americans, report finds

The Sentencing Project found that while Black folks are incarcerated at a rate of 1240 per 100,000 residents at the national level, White folks are incarcerated at a rate of 261 per 100,000.

Black Americans are incarcerated five times the rate of White Americans, report finds
Image Source: Bipartisan Group Of Senators Join Rally For Prison Reform At U.S. Capitol. WASHINGTON, DC - July 10. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

A new study conducted on state prisons by The Sentencing Project finds that Black Americans are incarcerated at almost five times the rate of their White counterparts. The researchers utilized data and projections from recent years from the United States Census, the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, and information provided directly from some states. As per the report, Black people are incarcerated at a rate of 1240 per 100,000 residents at the national level. In comparison, White people are incarcerated at a rate of 261 per 100,000 residents. The researchers thus concluded that not enough emphasis has been focused on ending racial and ethnic disparities systemwide, CNN reports.



 

"Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of its racist underpinnings," Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst for The Sentencing Project, stated in the report. "Immediate and focused attention on the causes and consequences of racial disparities is required in order to eliminate them." The research team found "staggering disproportionalities," particularly in 12 states where more than half of the prison population is Black. In addition to this, Latinx folks are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 1.3 times the incarceration rate of White Americans.



 

According to the report, titled The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons, Wisconsin leads the country with the highest rate of Black inmates. In the state, one in every 36 Black residents of Wisconsin is in prison. Meanwhile, even in Hawaii, the state with the lowest Black-to-White disparity, incarceration rates are staggering. The state imprisons Black Americans at "more than two times the rate of White [Americans]." The statistics reveal that there are three underlying problems leading to these disparities. The study reads, "Three recurrent explanations for racial disparities emerge from dozens of studies on the topic: a painful and enduring legacy of racial subordination, biased policies and practices that create or exacerbate disparities, and structural disadvantages that perpetuate disparities."



 

In order to address these inequities, Nellis has proposed three different policy recommendations. These solutions include: first, eliminating mandatory sentences for all crimes; second, mandating racial impact statements to calculate the impact of proposed crime legislation on different populations in conjunction with repealing existing racially biased laws; and third, decriminalizing low-level drug offenses. the researcher explained, "While chronic racial and ethnic disparity in imprisonment has been a known feature of the prison system for many decades, there has been little adjustment to policy or practices—inside or outside the justice system—to address these patterns directly."



 

Some legislators in the country have taken small steps to prevent the mass incarceration of Black folks. For instance, a few elected prosecutors have opted to eliminate cash bail. Others actively choose not to prosecute low-level amounts of marijuana and low-level nonviolent crimes such as loitering. Notably, as per the report, nine states have been able to reduce their prison population by 30 percent or more in recent years. These states are Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Alabama, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, and California. However, there is a long way to go, particularly when it comes to abolishing the prison network as a whole.



 

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