“African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites,” said a report called “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons” by the Washington-based nonprofit Sentencing Project.
“In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1,” the report added. Sentencing Project is nonprofit and promotes reforms in criminal justice policy and advocates for alternatives to incarceration.
The findings are worrying because the latest figures show that the United States is 63.7 percent non-Hispanic white, 12.2 percent Black, 8.7 percent Hispanic white and 0.4% Hispanic black.
In Maryland, the report found, the prison population is 72 percent Blacks. Meanwhile, in 12 U.S. states, more than half of the prison population is Black.
Those states are: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
“Evidence suggests that some individuals are incarcerated not solely because of their crime, but because of racially disparate policies, beliefs, and practices, rendering these collateral consequences all the more troubling,” the study’s author Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst with the Sentencing Project, said in the report.
“An unwarranted level of incarceration that worsens racial disparities is problematic not only for the impacted group, but for society as a whole, weakening the justice system’s potential and undermining perceptions of justice.”
The study also touches on the disproportional incarceration rate among Latinos vesrsus whites. For Latinos, the average ratio of incarceration for all states compared to whites is 1.4 to 1.
However, Nellis said the numbers for Latinos are likely to be understated due to “the absence or unreliability of ethnicity data in some states, the racial/ethnic disparities in those states may be understated.”
America’s Disappeared Black Men
She added that in most cases Hispanics would be counted in the white prison population, making the white rate of incarceration appear higher than what it really is. “It seems very unlikely that in a state like Florida that has a large percentage of Hispanics that only 4 percent of the prison population would be Hispanic,” Nellis said.
The United States has one of the world’s highest prison populations with more than 1.3 million people incarcerated in state prisons while the federal prison population is 210,567, according 2014 data by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
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