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
The Bureau of Justice Statistics report that’s cited above can be obtained here. If you want to go straight to the PDF version of the report, it’s here.
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.
American Violet is a new movie that is based on a true story of the Texas criminal (in)justice system. As described on Youtube,
Based on true events in the midst of the 2000 election, AMERICAN VIOLET tells the astonishing story of Dee Roberts (critically hailed newcomer Nicole Beharie), a 24 year-old African American single mother of four young girls living in a small Texas town who is barely making ends meet on a waitress salary and government subsidies.
On an early November morning while Dee works a shift at the local diner, the powerful local district attorney (Academy Award® nominee Michael OKeefe) leads an extensive drug bust, sweeping her Arlington Springs housing project with military precision. Police drag Dee from work in handcuffs, dumping her in the squalor of the womens county prison. Indicted based on the uncorroborated word of a single and dubious police informant facing his own drug charges, Dee soon discovers she has been charged as a drug dealer.
Even though Dee has no prior drug record and no drugs were found on her in the raid or any subsequent searches, she is offered a hellish choice: plead guilty and go home as a convicted felon or remain in prison and fight the charges thus, jeopardizing her custody and risking a long prison sentence.
Despite the urgings of her mother (Academy Award® nominee Alfre Woodard), and with her freedom and the custody of her children at stake, she chooses to fight the district attorney and the unyielding criminal justice system he represents. Joined in an unlikely alliance with an ACLU attorney (Tim Blake Nelson) and former local narcotics officer (Will Patton), Dee risks everything in a battle that forever changes her life and the Texas justice system. AMERICAN VIOLET also stars Emmy Award® winner Charles S. Dutton and Xzibit.
Here’s the movie trailer:
This is an independent movie, and is not in wide release. But if it is in your town, it might be worth a look.
The movie is based on a true story, which is detailed here. Another site has an engaging interview with Regina Kelly, upon whom the Dee Roberts character is based. Kindly enough, the video was placed on Youtube:
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