Mar 1, 2013

Black Incaceration Rates in the U.S Decline

The rate at which black Americans are incarcerated has decreased sharply in the past decade, according to a new report by the Sentencing Project. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the report noted that between 2000 and 2009, the incarceration rate decreased by 9.8 percent for black men, and an impressive 30.7 percent for black women. Below is a table from the new report showing changes black, white, and Hispanic incarceration rates by gender.

Blacks are still incarcerated at higher rates than whites, but the decrease in black incarceration is particularly notable given an increase in the incarceration rate for white and Hispanics over the same time period. There is no clear indication of what caused this decrease, but some note that the timing for this decline corresponds to the end of decade-long sentences from the era of harsher drug sentencing laws initiated in the 1980's. As those disproportionate number of black men and women who were incarcerated for crack offenses are now being released, the rate of incarceration and the prison population as a whole have both decreased. The incarceration rate for women overall, however, continues to increase as they now constitute 7 percent of the entire prison population as compared to 4% in 1980.

Check out the Sentencing Project report here and click here to read a recent New York Times article on the report's findings.