CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Study Released concerning the Disparity Between Blacks and Whites in Prison

From A study released yesterday found a wide disparity among states in the rates at which whites, blacks and Hispanics are locked up in jails and prisons.

Nationally in 2005, blacks were held at a rate nearly six times that for whites. Hispanics were held at almost twice the rate for whites. For every 100,000 of their respective populations, 412 whites were held; 2,290 blacks; and 742 Hispanics, according to study by the Sentencing Project.

Iowa had the highest black-to-white ratio, 13.6 to 1, and Hawaii had the lowest, 1.9 to 1. States with the highest ratios tended to be in the Northeast and Midwest.

Virginia ranked close to the national average -- slightly lower for whites and Hispanics, 396 and 487 per 100,000 respectively, and slightly higher for blacks, at 2,331.

The most recent figures available from the Virginia Department of Corrections show that as of mid-2005, nearly two out of three of the state's 35,000 prison inmates were black, the rest white. Figures for Hispanics were not available.

Ryan King, with the Sentencing Project, said that "because Virginia falls right in the middle of the pack is not something that is an accomplishment but rather indicates that Virginia reflects many of the same disparities that we see nationally."

"It's a much more complex situation than to say African-Americans simply commit more crimes," said King, a policy analyst with the nonprofit research and advocacy group.

Other factors play a part in the disparities, he said. Among them are where police focus their enforcement efforts, particularly in the war on drugs. "We know that African-Americans are arrested at higher rates, but not necessarily for higher commission" of crimes, he contends. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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