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Race and Ethnicity - Incarceration And Minorities

prison black percent population

The first inmate of Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829 was an eighteen-year-old black American. So began a long legacy of higher rates of incarceration for black Americans. In 1989 the number of black prisoners surpassed the number of whites; by 2003 some 832,400 black Americans were in the nation's prison and jail system compared to 665,100 whites and 363,900 Hispanics.

In 2003 4,834 out of every 100,000 black males were sentenced to prison compared to 681 per every 100,000 white males and 1,778 per 100,000 Hispanic males. Though the rate of black males going to prison was high, the fastest rising segment of prison population by the late twentieth century was minority females.

Hispanic Americans

Hispanic Americans come from many national origins that are culturally and economically diverse. Most Hispanics in the United States come from Mexico. Overall, Hispanics are poorer and less educated than the U.S. population. The language barrier between Hispanics and police contribute to rougher treatment during arrests. Illegal immigration has caused much fear in the U.S. population. In 1990 just over 10 percent of Hispanic men were either in prison or on parole or probation. Just over 3.7 percent of Hispanic men between ages of twenty and twenty-nine were in prison in 2003 compared to 1.6 percent of whites.

As with blacks, drug offenses were a major element of prison terms. Youth gangs have been an ongoing and violent problem involving drugs and guns. Organized crime has established strong ties with Hispanics involving drug trafficking of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana from Latin America. In the late 1990s it was estimated that some three thousand Colombian drug trafficking groups were operating in the United States.

As in the United States, proportionately large numbers of people considered minorities in other countries are incarcerated as well including in France and England. U.S. studies showed that blacks were commonly sent to prison at higher rates and for longer prison terms than whites for the same crimes. Though blacks were always overrepresented in prisons, the differences from white population rates increased dramatically in the 1990s. The incarceration rate for blacks rose 63 percent during the decade; in contrast, the white rate rose 36 percent and the Hispanic rate 35 percent. Increases for the period were due in large part to the War on Drugs proclaimed in the mid-1980s.

Over half of those sentenced for drug offenses were black in 1998. In the late 1990s about 9 percent of the total black adult population in the United States was under correctional supervision compared to 2 percent of the white adult population. The percentage of younger adults was much higher. Some 33 percent of the black American male population between twenty and twenty-nine years of age were either in prison or jail, or on probation or parole.

Blacks were much more likely to be sent to prison than placed on probation. As a result, black men were locked up at a rate of nine times that of whites. Blacks comprised over 40 percent of the prison population, almost 44 percent in 2003, on any given day. In addition, almost as many blacks were on death row (1,514) in 1999 as whites (1,948).

The experience of black Americans in the U.S. prison system is considered by some as a modern-day version of the slavery plantations in the South. Following the Civil War, the newly developing Southern prison systems held predominately black populations. Inmates worked in cotton fields, much as slaves had before the Civil War. Southern prisoners were worked in the fields for profit, often for private companies, and occasionally for the federal government's Federal Prison Industries program.


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over 3 years ago

but wwwwwwwhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy

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over 3 years ago

Tony... What I find to be racist is not this website... but your comment.



You state that there is nothing to incarceration rates that makes race predetermined sentencing and arrests? Then you are basically stating that Black Americans are just predisposed to be criminals. What other reason would apply for the disproportionate amount of Blacks incarcerated in the United States? The US has over 25% of the world's prison population... and an overwhelming amount of those incarcerated are Black. Also, considering the DOJ states that 43% of all crimes go unreported... it is impossible to claim who is really committing the majority of crimes... we only know who is arrested and convicted of these crimes.



Black people are 14% of the American population. Why then are almost as many on death row as Whites? Why did incarceration rates for Blacks rise 63% in the 1990s?



The author uses numbers and percentages because that is all they need to use... it is not this page that is racist, but the US Justice System.

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over 3 years ago

Credentials.. fourth year sociology and behavioral science major and half black half mexican.

plain and simple kenneth bey and Chicago hit it right on the head. It's easy to say one would or wouldn't do a giving thing in a giving situation, but the truth of the matter is from even in the womb, outside sources have an influence on people and how they act and interact with society. 70 to 80% of brain development is done in around the first five years of life, so those in high crime high poverty areas, that life style almost becomes part of them, and with horrible schooling and no matter, the "tools" (i think i read someone mention that) are not all there if present at all. it ALL stems from education and where money is put. look at your locals cities.. where does the money go? do the shopping centers stay nice, and the crack roads stay cracked. same thing on a state level. investing in human education doesn't show an immediate return, so they invest in prisons. California, where i'm from, in 2005 more than double its prison budge, white cutting education. seriously? build um dumber, lock um up, and support the super rich. just think about it.

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over 5 years ago

Criminal isn't a color it's a state of mind, whether black white brown yellow it doesn't make a difference. The reason the numbers of minoritys incarrserated are higher than whites is because those ethnic groups tend to be more poverty strikin and grow up in bad neighborhoods or get a poor education, these all effect the persons perception of right and wrong. They may not think about all the sides of the crime there commuting or the collateral damage the may cause ( I'm not saying this goes for all crimes obviosly murder or rape is a different story). Some people are just plain bad others are just mislead, this is true for all races.

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almost 5 years ago

is anyone aware that the people in prison ars counted in the census of the prison location,and not where they come from.also prison is not a system but an industry.who is makeing the from the ,construction,supplying,feeding,and,staffing of these institutions of criminal education.this is one of the reasons that better shools and infrastructure maintenance are in the location of the prisons.investment in the prison industry is one of the fastest money makers.in the communities where the inmates{commodities}come fromthe schools,etc can"t get a dime.lets get rid of the politicians that continue to help this happen.

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about 7 years ago

In Africa, there are black run criminal justice systems in countries with fairly large white populations. Their b/w incarceration rates are similar (if not more one-sided) than ours. How the hell do you explain that? Oh, I know, blacks are so discriminated against that they themselves are racist against blacks. If your a black person, the bottom line is always that "this is everybody's fault but mine." The ironic part is this is exactly the attitude that will keep them going to prison.

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over 5 years ago

Nikki, I agree with you and I don't. We are our own worst enemies in every way. But how can anyone expect to be respected if they don't use the simplest tools given to them? It is one thing to be upset about a comment, it is another to respond heatedly, and not sound like you have some sort of intelligence in your response. Though Kenny could have put it differently, he was as entitled to his opinion (however brash) as was Brooklynn, you, or I.

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over 5 years ago

Kenny, instead of worrying about what words were misspelled in Brooklynn's comments, read and understand the message. The message is that not all of us blame others for our actions. Afican American or White, it is ignorance that keeps us separated and Kenny you truly showed your ignorance with your comments.

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almost 6 years ago

Brooklynn. Spell Check? If you are trying to make the Black race appear and sound intelligent at least spell properly.



Dobn't=Don't

Sorround=Surround



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over 6 years ago

first of all David let me correct you on something, I am an African American female and I dobn't break the law. I don't blame anybody for anything because I control me. I take responsibility for my actions. I sorround myself with people who are just like me so keep your sterotype to yourself. THANKS!!!!!!!!! Oh and by the way the next time you share a bit of information state your source, you can't make an informative statement without the evidence to prove it.

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almost 7 years ago

I understand what you are saying david not all African Americans blame others than themselves most of them do. Take Marv Alberts for instance he bit someone's ear off. He is still employed with NBC and noone looked at him different. OJ Simpson was accused of murder he is no longer working as a sports analysis nor could he write his book granted the title and he is scarred for life as a murderer and no one has proof of this. The point I am tring to make is that this is a country that treats people different. African Americans go to jail more because they try to control them. Remember African Americans never asked to come here they were forced to do so. Not all African Americans are law abiding citizens but some of them are. The example I gave is just one example of the racism that goes on in this country. I have another example Andy Reid the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles his son was arrested days later after the police found guns and narcotics in his truck during a routine traffic stop. If that was a black man they would have gone straight to jail. The Bucks County Police Department said "they have to further investigate before they can make an arrest" Can you explain that?

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over 7 years ago

Why is it that no one ever lists in a break down, by race, who commits how many crimes, and who are the victims? I'd be willing to bet that the numbers would astound the liberal media and scholars who claim to be smarter than me. I'm sure there are legit reasons, but I'm sure they would list pie in the sky type excuses. Unfortunatly, the current atmosphere in America is "It's not my fault, I'm not to blame, it's the fault of {fill in the blank with your favorite scapegoat}."