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December 4, 2007

New JPI report on racial disparities in incarceration

Thumb_newpicture At a time when race and sentencing policy are entering the national political debate (details here and here), the Justice Policy Institute has produced an important new report showing the pervasiveness of racial disparities in imprisonment.  The new report, which is entitled "The Vortex: The Concentrated Racial Impact of Drug Imprisonment and the Characteristics of Punitive Counties," can be accessed at this webpage.  That webpage also provides links to an Interactive Map with associated county fact sheets, and it also has this official press release concerning the report.  Here are excerpts from the press release:

A new report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) finds that 97 percent of the nation's large-population counties imprisoned African Americans at a higher rate than whites. The report documents racial disparities in the use of prison for drug offenses in 193 of the 198 counties that reported to government entities.

“The Vortex: The Concentrated Racial Impact of Drug Imprisonment and the Characteristics of Punitive Counties,” found that counties with higher poverty rates, larger African-American populations and larger police or judicial budgets imprison people for drug offenses at higher rates than counties without these characteristics. These relationships were found to be independent of whether the county actually had a higher rate of crime. (The findings for the 198 counties.)...

“The exponential removal of people of color who have substance abuse problems from their communities and into prisons undermines and destabilizes neighborhoods-- it does not make them safer,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Drug addiction doesn’t discriminate but our drug policies do.”   The report is being released just days before the Drug Policy Alliance hosts its 2007 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

I hope that this interesting and important report gets all the attention it deserves.  I also hope that all the presidential candidates get asked hard questions based on this report.  Notably, as detailed in prior posts here and here, earlier reports indicate that the state with the highest black-to-white incarceration ratio for all crimes is Iowa, so this is a very important issue in the state that gets to vote first during the early political season.

Some related posts on racial disparities in incarceration:

Some related on sentencing politics:

December 4, 2007 at 09:26 AM | Permalink

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