Black Americans Jailed 5-Times More Than Whites, New Study Shows

By on
Inmates walk on the roof of a wing of the main regional prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where at least 24 prisoners were killed in a gun battle among inmates
Inmates walk on the roof of a wing of the main regional prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where at least 24 prisoners were killed in a gun battle among inmates

Black Americans are five times more likely to be jailed than white Americans, according to a study published Wednesday. 

A report by the Sentencing Project found that there were “staggering disproportionalities” among the rates of incarceration of Black adults and Latinos compared to white Americans. 

“The latest available data regarding people sentenced to state prison reveal that Black Americans are imprisoned at a rate that is roughly five times the rate of white Americans,” the report read. “Latinx individuals are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 1.3 times the incarceration rate of whites.”

The study, which used data and projections from the U.S. Census, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, and information provided by several states, also found that one in 81 Black adults per 100,000 people in the country is currently imprisoned in a state prison.

Additionally, over half of the prison population in 12 states, most of which are in the south, are Black Americans. These states are Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

The study also found that in Wisconsin, one in every 36 Black adults is in prison. In 2010, there were 4,042 Black Americans per 100,000 people in that racial group in the state’s prisons. In comparison, there were only 416 whites and 622 Hispanics, according to The Prison Policy Initiative.

In Hawaii, Black adults were still jailed at more than double the rate of whites. The state had the lowest Black-to-white disparity.

"Immediate and focused attention on the causes and consequences of racial disparities is required in order to eliminate them,” Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst for The Sentencing Project, wrote. 

The U.S. is currently the global leader in incarceration, with over 1.2 million people imprisoned nationally, according to The Sentencing Project. 

However, some prosecutors have begun creating policies that prevent mass incarceration, including eliminating cash bail. Nine states -- Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Alabama, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii and California -- have also worked to reduce their prison population by 30%, the report said. 


Torture and sexual violence inflicted on inmates is systemic in Russia's vast penitentiary system, prison monitors say
Torture and sexual violence inflicted on inmates is systemic in Russia's vast penitentiary system, prison monitors say
Photo: AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF

Join the Discussion