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Black Americans are incarcerated nearly five times as many as whites, new report on state prisons finds

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The report found that one in 81 black adults per 100,000 people in the United States was serving time in a state prison, using data and projections from recent years of the US Census, from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics. United and information provided directly by some states.

“Truly meaningful reforms of the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without recognition of its racist foundations,” Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst for The Sentencing Project, wrote in the report. “Immediate and focused attention to the causes and consequences of racial disparities is needed in order to eliminate them.”

The report released Wednesday revealed “staggering disproportionalities” in the incarceration rates of blacks and Latinxes compared to whites. In 12 states, more than half of the prison population is black. And Latinx individuals are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 1.3 times the incarceration rate for whites, according to the report.

The Sentencing Project revealed that Wisconsin leads the country with the highest rate of black inmates. One in 36 Black Wisconsinites is in prison, according to the report.

A separate analysis by The Prison Policy Initiative gave the state a failing grade for overcrowding their adult correctional facilities during the pandemic, and a 2013 study by the Institute for Employment and Training of the The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee revealed that half of the young black men in Milwaukee County were in state prison.

Hawaii, the state with the lowest disparity between blacks and whites, still jails blacks at “more than twice the rate of whites,” according to the report.

Nellis offered three recommendations to address racial disparities. These recommendations include the elimination of mandatory sentences for all crimes, the requirement of racial impact statements to calculate the impact of proposed criminal legislation on different populations and the repeal of existing laws in favor of racial prejudice, and decriminalization of minor drug offenses.

There are “three recurring explanations for racial disparities that emerge from dozens of studies on the subject: a painful and enduring legacy of racial subordination, biased policies and practices that create or exacerbate disparities, and structural disadvantages that perpetuate them. disparities, ”according to the report.

“Although chronic racial and ethnic disparities in imprisonment have been a known feature of the prison system for many decades, there have been few adjustments to policies or practices – inside or outside the prison system. court system – to directly tackle these models, ”Nellis wrote. .

Some elected prosecutors across the country have created their own policies to prevent mass incarceration by eliminating cash bonds and not prosecuting low amounts of marijuana and low-level non-violent crimes like vagrancy.

Nine states have reduced their prison populations by 30% or more in recent years: Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Alabama, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii and California, according to the report.

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