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New Report Examines Inmate Demographics

July 20, 2007  | 

A new analysis by The Sentencing Project provides a regional examination of the racial and ethnic dynamics of incarceration in the U.S. The report, "Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity," finds that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six (5.6) times the rate of whites and Hispanics nearly double (1.8) the rate.

The report also reveals wide variation in incarceration by state, with states in the Northeast and Midwest exhibiting the greatest black-to-white disparity in incarceration. In five states—Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Wisconsin—African Americans are incarcerated at more than 10 times the rate of whites.

The Sentencing Project is a national organization based in Washington, D.C., that promotes reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration. The group's interpretation of the results reflects this mission.

"Racial disparities in incarceration reflect a failure of social and economic interventions to address crime effectively and also indicate racial bias in the justice system," stated Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project. "The broad variation in the use of incarceration nationally suggests that policy decisions can play a key role in determining the size and composition of the prison population."

The report extends the findings of previous analyses by incorporating jail populations in the overall incarceration rate and by assessing the impact of incarceration on the Hispanic community, representing an increasing share of the prison population. The state figures for Hispanic incarceration also reveal broad variation nationally. Three states—Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania—have a Hispanic-to-white ratio of incarceration more than three times the national average.

According to The Sentencing Project, prior research from the Department of Justice has demonstrated that if current trends continue, one in three black males and one in six Hispanic males born today can expect to go to prison. Rates for women are lower overall, but exhibit similar racial and ethnic disparities.

For more information about the report and the organization that developed it, visit www.sentencingproject.org.


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