Bars_off_05_1 Prisons are big in the United States. There are more people behind bars literally, and proportionally, than any time in our history. We have a higher percentage of our population in prison than any other nation. And, we keep building more prisons, in fact many locales lobby for new prisons as a tool of economic recovery. What are the actual numbers that put American prison populations in historical and international perspective?

Between 1973 and 2000 the rate of incarceration in the United States more than quadrupled. The International Centre for Prison Studies at Kings College, London now calculates the U.S. rate at 700 people per 100,000. There are now more than two million Americans behind bars. Add to that another four and a half million on probation or parole and three million ex-convicts. This trend shows no sign of slowing. Look at this pie chart showing America’s population by racial percentage. Figure1_1

  Now, look at this pie chart showing prison population by racial percentage.  Notice something?

In NNpi

NoptAlthough blacks account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, 44 percent of all prisoners in the United States are black. This is NOT because 12% of the population (blacks) are responsible for 44% of crime.

The proportion of blacks in prison populations exceeds the proportion among state residents in every single state. In twenty states, the percent of blacks incarcerated is at least five times greater than their share of resident population.

The national war on drugs has perhaps been the primary factor behind the extraordinary rates at which blacks are incarcerated. Drug offenses account for nearly two out of five of the blacks sent to state prison. More blacks are sent to state prison for drug offenses (38 percent) than for crimes of violence In contrast, drug offenders constitute 24 percent of whites admitted to prison and violent offenders constitute 27 percent African-Americans are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for drug offenses at far higher rates than whites. This racial disparity bears little relationship to racial differences in drug offending. For example, although the proportion of all drug users who are black is generally in the range of 13 to 15 percent, blacks constitute 36 percent of arrests for drug possession. Blacks constitute 63 percent of all drug offenders admitted to state prisons. In at least fifteen states, black men were sent to prison on drug charges at rates ranging from twenty to fifty-seven times those of white men.Figure4

In 2001, nearly 6.6 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year end. That number represents 3.1% of all U.S. adult residents or one in every 32 adults.

Don Woldman and I will discuss this situation, among other things, this Saturday pm PDT on our Internet radio show. Please listen. 

4 Responses to “PRISONS AND CRIME”

  1. Anea

    The prison stats are very disturbing. Having moved to Texas I am even more aware of the whole insanity than ever before. Really want to get scared? Look at the capital punishment stats.

  2. Noba Jones

    True witness: Texas prison and other insanity history
    Nothing new!
    Before I first moved from Texas to California in ’77, I recall a young man scheduled to be executed on death row the first day I was bused across town to start high school. At the time, Texas had already executed more on death row (not including hangings sung in Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”) than all 50 states combined. Or was that 48 states then? Sorry, memory challenges.
    At any rate, Burl’s great discourse I discovered here Oct 16th brought sad insanity memories I thought had vanished. Memories flowed about Jews too at one time there that Stanley Marcus briefed me on when I modeled at Neiman Marcus. This, however, is my Black true witness.
    I was born sickly spending my first Christmas in the hospital there with asthma and pneumonia and continuing on with daily head pain, etc. Yet, my oldest brother lovingly told me a new joke everyday which joyfully eased my suffering. Just prior to my first year of integration at UT Austin when I fought the insanity of black basketball and football players there not being allowed to play due to not being as talented as whites (since the first game I attended was against USC with OJ soon picking up his Heisman), shockingly, my brother was one day arrested and sent to prison for a crime I knew it was impossible for him to have committed. UNLESS, he drove 35 miles and 35 back to rob a bank in Waxahachie during a family gathering. Come to think of it, I did stand waiting at the bathroom door a long time to hear my daily joke needed more during the 60’s. I just naively thought too much Woozie grape soda water caused a long leak. No, those in power determined to solve a crime and make someone pay declared him one of the bank robbers. My brother got 40 years, but my grandparents spent thier $20,000 life savings from days on the oil and cattle ranch for a re-trail. He got 40 more.
    Maybe if the chart were divided by state, Texas would be no 1. Texas has some great things, but Texans made SOMEBODY pay.
    Iraq, I was in NY Sept 11th, And I “knew” SOMEBODY was going to pay for that.

  3. Burl Barer

    If you click on the graph, it will enlarge and you can see that the state with the largest disparity is Illinois.
    1,146 black prisoners for every 20 white prisoners. Texas is 381/20.

  4. Noba

    Oh, thanks very kindly for pointing out my mistake and to the graph. Noba loves the truth. I was dead wrong. Another reminder that I should not be a writer due to this damaged brain being seized at that point by the words of Anea – “capital punishment stats.” Not the subject, prisons. A dark cloud had descended, and I was taken on an emotional roller coaster to being a sickly child and captive audience to my great-grandmother’s storytelling reminescent of “Roots.” She was a college professor having studied under Booker T. Washington at Tuskgee Institute due to her father being his close friend. Yet, she never spoke of Deep South Alabama atrocities. Only Texas. These were lynchings, public and hidden, with many bodies often discovered in cotton fields left for buzzard supper.
    The statistics you quoted represented worse atrocities to me. Hidden atrocities via prisons. Deception…YUK!!! Texans generally don’t pretend to be your friend – a racism I have come to prefer.
    PS: Guess that no.1 I was picking up was my next 15 year home in Chicago, Il. Thanks again. And please forgive ya’ll…no time to proofread again. Can’t miss that train today either.


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