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February 28, 2013

New Sentencing Project report notes recent changing racial make-up of prison populations

As summarized in this New York Times article, "[i]ncarceration rates for black Americans dropped sharply from 2000 to 2009, especially for women, while the rate of imprisonment for whites and Hispanics rose over the same decade, according to a report released Wednesday" by The Sentencing Project. Here is more:

The declining rates for blacks represented a significant shift in the racial makeup of the United States’ prisons and suggested that the disparities that have long characterized the prison population may be starting to diminish.

“It certainly marks a shift from what we’ve seen for several decades now,” said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, whose report was based on data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Justice Department. “Normally, these things don’t change very dramatically over a one-decade period.”

The decline in incarceration rates was most striking for black women, dropping 30.7 percent over the ten-year period. In 2000, black women were imprisoned at six times the rate of white women; by 2009, they were 2.8 times more likely to be in prison. For black men, the rate of imprisonment decreased by 9.8 percent; in 2000 they were incarcerated at 7.7 times the rate of white men, a rate that fell to 6.4 times that of white men by 2009.

For white men and women, however, incarceration rates increased over the same period, rising 47.1 percent for white women and 8.5 percent for white men. By the end of the decade, Hispanic men were slightly less likely to be in prison, a drop of 2.2 percent, but Hispanic women were imprisoned more frequently, an increase of 23.3 percent.

Over all, blacks currently make up about 38 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons; whites account for about 34 percent. More than 100,000 women are currently incarcerated in state or federal prisons. The overall rate of incarceration varies widely from state to state, as does the ratio of blacks to whites and Hispanics.

But the trend is clear, Mr. Mauer said, adding that no single factor could explain the shifting figures but that changes in drug laws and sentencing for drug offenses probably played a large role. Other possible contributors included decreasing arrest rates for blacks, the rising number of whites and Hispanics serving mandatory sentences for methamphetamine abuse, and socioeconomic shifts that have disproportionately affected white women.

Alfred Blumstein, an expert on the criminal justice system at Carnegie Mellon University, said his own findings from research he conducted with Allen J. Beck of the Bureau of Justice Statistics also indicated that the rate of incarceration for blacks was declining compared with that for whites. “A major contributor has been the intensity of incarceration for drug offending,” Dr. Blumstein said, “and that reached a peak with the very long sentences we gave out for crack offenders, stimulated in large part by the violence that was going on in the crack markets.”

But crack cocaine has become far less of an issue in recent years, he noted, a fact reflected in revisions of federal sentencing laws. And inmates serving time for crack offenses are now emerging from prison, “so there would be a disproportionate black exodus from prison that as a result would be reflected in a lowering of the incarceration-rate ratio,” he said.

Mr. Mauer said that especially for black women, the drop in incarceration compared with whites was “all about drug offenses.” In New York State, for example, where the overall prison population has dropped substantially, for women “virtually the entire decline was a decline in drug offenses,” he said. Increasingly severe drug laws and stiff sentences for drug offenses resulted in disproportionate numbers of black women going to prison, he said, “and now they are disproportionately benefiting from reductions in that area.”

The full 26-page report from The Sentencing Project is titled "The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women’s Incarceration," and it is available at this link.

February 28, 2013 at 11:44 AM | Permalink


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“A major contributor has been the intensity of incarceration for drug offending,” Dr. Blumstein said, “and that reached a peak with the very long sentences we gave out..."

A time-honoured truth?
The effective incapacitation and deterrence of firm punishment?

"put the evil away from among you"~Deut 19:19; see: James 3:2
"Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware"~Prov 19:25

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 28, 2013 3:10:12 PM

The conversion of psuedo to MAry Jane equiv is a big factor for meth related cases... I've noticed that psuedo converts to 5 times higher equiv mary Jane that does meth.. (not pure meth of coarse)...

Here are the conversion relationship when converted to Mary JAne Equiv:
Cocaine 200 gm
Meth 2 kgm
New Crack 3.6kgm
Psuedo 10 kgm
Pure Meth 20 kgm kgm is kilogram = 1000grams

With the high rate of psuedo its no wonder white % is growing fast..
Extremely long sentences and blacks are getting some relief from fair sentences act... Some at least.

Its too bad that psuedo doen't have any empirical evidence.
If one cooked their psudo into meth, and disposed their blister packs
they would be far and away ahead of those with empty blister packs..
This is wrong....If the meth they were caught with was not pure, then the calcs for psuedo is way too high... Psuedo converts the same no matter what they were making, crystal or powder meth, with low purity...This amounts to racial bias for whites..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 28, 2013 3:17:36 PM

This is the most up to date offender review that I have found.

I suspect a breakdown of 2000-2008 would reflect those new numbers. This study covers 1980-2008.

Race, ethnicity and crime statistics.

For the White–Black comparisons, the Black level is 12.7 times greater than the White level for homicide, 15.6 times greater for robbery, 6.7 times greater for rape, and 4.5 times greater for aggravated assault.

For the Hispanic- White comparison, the Hispanic level is 4.0 times greater than the White level for homicide, 3.8 times greater for robbery, 2.8 times greater for rape, and 2.3 times greater for aggravated assault.

For the Hispanic–Black comparison, the Black level is 3.1 times greater than the Hispanic level for homicide, 4.1 times greater for robbery, 2.4 times greater for rape, and 1.9 times greater for aggravated assault.

Sharp: As the most common capital murders, those which are death penalty eligible, are rape/murders and robbery/murders, the disparities will most likely be even greater than the numbers, above.






Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Mar 1, 2013 12:59:51 PM

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