Statistics from the Department of Justice indicate that black males are incarcerated – held in prison or jail – at a rate that is over 6 times higher than that for white males.
For every 100,000 black males, an estimated 4,777 are held in federal or state prison or a local jail.
By contrast, for every 100,000 white men, only 727 are estimated to be incarcerated.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008 – Statistical Tables, March 2009 (Revised 4/8/09), Table 18
One result of this high incarceration rate is that the percentage of blacks among all males in prison or jail far exceeds the percentage of blacks in the general population:
Source: Calculated from Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008 – Statistical Tables, March 2009 (Revised 4/8/09); Population stats from US Census Bureau
What explains these numbers? It’s a combination of things: African Americans commit more crimes; they commit more crimes that are likely to result in jail time (as a result of sentencing guidelines that, for example, result in more jail time for crack cocaine than cocaine powder); they are less able to afford high quality legal services; and they may be subject to discrimination in prosecution, the rendering of verdicts, and sentencing.
I will try to look at these issues in future posts.