NEW REPORT: State Prisons Holding Black Prisoners at Far Greater Rates Than Whites

prison-bars(Press Release by the Sentencing Project)—

  • In 11 states, 1 in 20 black men is in prison
  • States with lowest black incarceration rates still higher than white rates in any state

African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states, a new study on race and incarceration revealed today.

Although African Americans are not a majority in any of the 50 states, they make up more than half of the prison population in a dozen states: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, according to The Sentencing Project’s report, The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons.

New Jersey tops the nation in terms of disparity in its incarceration rates, with a black/white ratio of more than 12 to 1. Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Vermont follow closely behind, Racial-Disparity-Sentencingincarcerating African Americans at more than 10 times the rate of whites. Even states with the lowest black incarceration rates report higher figures than states with the highest white incarceration rates.

The report also examines prison populations by race and age. It finds that in 11 states, at least 1 in 20 adult black men is incarcerated.  In Oklahoma, the state with the highest black incarceration rate, 1 in 15 black men 18 or older is in prison.

Hispanics are incarcerated nationally in state facilities at a rate that is 1.4 times the rate for non-Hispanic whites, but at a much higher rate in Massachusetts (4.3), Connecticut (3.9), Pennsylvania (3.3), and New York (3.1). In raw numbers, Hispanic incarceration is highest in border and southwestern states.

Prison population growth has slowed and inmate populations are down in some states, but the United States remains the world leader among developed nations in its rate of incarceration. Some states and the U.S. Congress are engaged in efforts to reduce prison populations by reducing sentences, reclassifying some drug offenses as health rather than criminal matters, and pursuing other “smart on crime” approaches to public safety.

“Public safety is a concern for all, but there should be a growing discomfort with the skewed system of mass incarceration. It has produced diminishing returns for public safety while locking up record numbers of people of color,” said Ashley Nellis, Senior Research Analyst and author of the report. “Any reform effort to scale back mass incarceration must also address these staggering racial and ethnic disparities.”

The report identifies three contributors to racial and ethnic disparities in imprisonment: criminal justice policies and practices, implicit bias, and structural disadvantages. Combined or separately, these pervade the criminal justice system and undermine support for law enforcement in neighborhoods where it often is most needed, tarnishing the credibility of the legal system across the country.

“As we seek ways to make the criminal justice system more fair and efficient, policymakers should adopt strategies that reduce both excessive incarceration and racial/ethnic disparities. Unless these goals are linked we risk seeing the continuation of racial disparities even though prison populations may decline,” stated Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project.

The Sentencing Project is a non-profit and non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C., that works for a fair and effective U.S. justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts


  1. The Pugilist

    “African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states, a new study on race and incarceration revealed today.”

    the defense here is always – that black people commit crimes at higher rates than whites, but at least in some areas such as marijuana use, we know even that rationale falls short on the facts.

    1. South of Davis

      The Pugilist wrote:

      > but at least in some areas such as marijuana use, we know

      > even that rationale falls short on the facts.

      Where do you get these “facts” on marijuana use?

      It is hard to know how many people smoke pot and how often then smoke it since it is still illegal in most places and most people are not honest when you ask them about illegal activity.

      Should we look forward to a story from the Vanguard about how the majority of people locked up for financial fraud are white?

      Is any of the Vanguard staffers working on a story about how racist UCD has only about 28% whites in a state where whites make up about 38% of the population?

      This might come as a shock to some people but NOTHING (good or bad) has a perfectly equal breakdown by race.

      I’m wondering if David plans to have the Vanguard staffers find every single bad thing in America where blacks are over represented while ignoring every single good thing where blacks are over represented…


    2. Jerry Waszczuk


      How many African- Americans lives in Davis , CA  or what is the ratio Whites versa Blacks in Davis ?

      What is the ratio of  African -Americans employees , faculties , staff  versa Whites in UC Davis including UC Davis Medical Center ?

      I believe that you are born American and you know the social problem a lot better than I do? Would you please tell me why  African -American are falling behind in comparison to other races (excluding white race) in this question.  I see that African -Americans are well organized . African -American have great artists , politicians , actors , community leaders , churches leaders etc  but majority still living in the places that no other ethnic groups  does not want leave or even visit such places . Crying about that more African -Americans  are incarcerated in state prisons across the country will not fix the problem . This must a deep social problem which should be taken care by African -American leaders, community organizers, black churches leaders , black noble politicians etc.

      In my November 2013 letter addressed to UCDMC Cindy G. Oropeza, ManagerBenefits, EEO, Resident/Fellow Program HR Administrator,Title IX Officer – Sexual Harassment, Mediation Services, ASAP, EarlyResolution/Inclusion I wrote: 
      The UCDMC Executive Director and Affirmative Action Officer Dr. Shelton J. Duruisseau (African-American) was promoted to Associate Vice-Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief External Affairs Officer with a base 4.19 percent salary adjustment from $278,320 to $290,000. In this reconstruction of Equal Opportunity Committee, Duruisseau replaced you as a Chair in the new Task Force On Diversity and Inclusion, a position you held at least since February 28, 2006.
      However in the new Task Force On Diversity and Inclusion you are still listed as member of this Committee.
      The framework presents a few statistical charts portraying how diversity and inclusion worked under your and Duruisseau’s leadership. ESPECIALLY WHAT GOT MY ATTENTION WERE THE NUMBERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND HISPANIC INCLUDED, CONSIDERING THAT DURUISSEAU IS AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND I BELIEVE YOU ARE HISPANIC OR LATINA.

      If you look at these numbers of African-Americans and Latinos in the charts of Fellow New Hires from 2002-2010; Resident New Hires from 2002-2010; UCDHS All Medical Students 2004-2010; UCDHS First Year Medical Students 2004-2010; Faculty Demographic by Year, School of Medicine 2004-2010; and the School of Nursing Numbers and Percentage Chart, you could only conclude that the previous Equal Opportunity Committee and new Task Force On Diversity and Inclusion Committee is a total fraud with members like you or Duruisseau in charge.
      Very-interesting are the photos on the UC Davis Health System web pages of Dr. Darin A. Latimore, M.D. posing with different ethnic groups of UC Davis students. Latimore is African-American, a member of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, and Associate Dean for Residents and Students Diversity.
      Marijuana is not a good example why more African -American are in prisons than Whites and others . The problem  is  a lot deeper that marijuana and crying about is not going to change this serious social problem .  The  racial segregation was abolished quite long ago .  I and my many friends I know had a worse start in this country than any any born African -American here  ( no language , five dollars in the  pocket  , two suitcases , wife and two kids and landed in middle of the Texas where no Polish people around to communicate). I did not smoke marijuana, I went to work and had two jobs to get on my feet and provide normal life for my family .

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for