Mass Incarceration - Miami -South Florida -SCLC


Despite making up close to 5% of the global population, the U.S. has nearly 25% of the world’s prison population. Since 1970, our incarcerated population has increased by 700% – 2.3 million people in jail and prison today, far outpacing population growth and crime.

  • total of 6.8 million correctional population.
  • African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
  • The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
  • Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested,
    42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially
    waived to criminal court.
  • Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US
    population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.

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. This report documents the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics in each state, identifies three contributors to racial and ethnic disparities in imprisonment and provides recommendations for reform.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 35% of state prisoners are white, 38% are black, and 21% are Hispanic.7) In twelve states more than half of the prison population is African American. Though the reliability of data on ethnicity is not as strong as it is for race estimates, the Hispanic population in state prisons is as high as 61% in New Mexico and 42% in both Arizona and California. In an additional seven states, at least one in five inmates is Hispanic.8) While viewing percentages reveals a degree of disproportion for people of color when compared to the overall general population (where 62% are white, 13% are black, and 17% are Hispanic),9) viewing the composition of prison populations from this perspective only tells some of the story. In this report, we present the rates of racial and ethnic disparity, which allow a portrayal of the overrepresentation of people of color in the prison system accounting for population in the general community.10) This shows odds of imprisonment for individuals in various racial and ethnic categories.

It is important to note at the outset that, given the absence or unreliability of ethnicity data in some states, the racial/ethnic disparities in those states may be understated. Since most Hispanics in those instances would be counted in the white prison population, the white rate of incarceration would, therefore, appear higher than is the case, and consequently, the black/white and Hispanic/white ratios of disparity would be lower as well. In four states, data on ethnicity is not reported to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nor is it provided in the state department of corrections’ individual annual reports. These states are Alabama, Maryland, Montana, and Vermont. There are most assuredly people in prison in these states who are Hispanic, but since the state does not record this information, the exact number is unknown.

Figure 1. Average rate of incarceration by race and ethnicity, per 100,000 population


xRate of Imprisonment by Race and Ethnicity per 100,000
Data source: United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Prisoner Statistics, 1978-2014. Bibliographic Citation: ICPSR36281-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2015-10-09; U.S. Census Bureau (2013). 2013 Population Estimates. Annual estimates of resident population by sex, race, and Hispanic origin for the United States, states and counties: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

Figure 1 provides a national view of the concentration of prisoners by race and ethnicity as a proportion of their representation in the state’s overall general population, or the rate per 100,000 residents. Looking at the average state rates of incarceration, we see that overall blacks are incarcerated at a rate of 1,408 per 100,000 while whites are incarcerated at a rate of 275 per 100,000. This means that blacks are incarcerated at a rate that is 5.1 times that of whites. This national look also shows that Hispanics are held in state prisons at an average rate of 378 per 100,000, producing a disparity ratio of 1.4:1 compared to whites.

As we enter the Jetsons and Exit the Flintstones, the South Florida Miami SCLC is committed to dissecting this problem and attacking it from the core, with accountability as the resounding theme. Help us pave the way for this new era 2020.


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