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Some Interesting Statistics of Black Americans

State and Federal Inmates by Race(right)

U.S. Population by Race(above)


According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, more than two million men and women are now behind bars in the United States. The country that holds itself out as the "land of freedom" incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than any other country. The human costs — wasted lives, wrecked families, troubled children — are incalculable, as are the adverse social, economic and political consequences of weakened communities, diminished opportunities for economic mobility, and extensive disenfranchisement.

Contrary to popular perception, violent crime is not responsible for the quadrupling of the incarcerated population in the United States since 1980. In fact, violent crime rates have been relatively constant or declining over the past two decades. The exploding prison population has been propelled by public policy changes that have increased the use of prison sentences as well as the length of time served, e.g. through mandatory minimum sentencing, "three strikes" laws, and reductions in the availability of parole or early release.

Although these policies were championed as protecting the public from serious and violent offenders, they have instead yielded high rates of confinement of nonviolent offenders. Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes. Only 49 percent of sentenced state inmates are held for violent offenses.

Perhaps the single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national "war on drugs." The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased twelvefold since 1980. In 2000, 22 percent of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges.

Even more troubling than the absolute number of persons in jail or prison is the extent to which those men and women are African-American. Although blacks account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, 44 percent of all prisoners in the United States are black.

Census data for 2000,which included a count of the number and race of all individuals incarcerated in the United States, reveals the dramatic racial disproportion of the incarcerated population in each state: 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

To read more about this take a virtual trip to these sites:

1 Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2002," April 6, 2003, available at: /abstract/pjim02.htm.

2 See Human Rights Watch, "Punishment and Prejudice," at

3 Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Prisoners in 2001," July 2002, p. 12, available at bjs/abstract/p01.htm.

4 Ibid.

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