Well-Being

‘Staggering’ racial disparity in prisons in states with mostly white populations: report

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Story at a glance:

  • Black people are incarcerated at higher rates than white people.
  • One in every 36 Black people in Wisconsin are in prison; Black people make up less than 7 percent of the state’s population.
  • Hawaii has Black people imprisoned “more than two times the rate of whites,” and the state has a 2.2 percent Black population.

The United States has “staggering” racial disparities among those sentenced to state prison; specifically, Black people are incarcerated at higher rates than white people, according to a new report.

A report from The Sentencing Project states that Black people are incarcerated about five times more than white people, and 1 in 81 Black adults per 100,000 people in the U.S. is serving time in state prison.


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


The project uses data and projections from the U.S. Census, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, and information provided directly from some states, according to CNN.

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

The report, released this month, shows “staggering disproportionalities” between people of color, like Black and Latinx people, and white people who are incarcerated. More than half of the prison population in a dozen states consists of Black people, and the Latinx community faces an incarceration rate of 1.3 times that of white people.

According to the report, Wisconsin has the highest rate of Black inmates, with 1 in every 36 Black people in Wisconsin in prison.

However, the state, which has a population of less than 6 million, is predominately white at 87 percent, with 7 percent of the population being Black, according to the U.S. Census.

Overcrowding in adult correctional facilities in Wisconsin during the pandemic has been a prevalent issue, with facilities operating at 113 percent capacity, according to an analysis from The Prison Policy Initiative as reported by CNN.

As Changing America previously reported, some law enforcers are hesitant or refuse to get vaccinated.

The data shows that only 40 percent of corrections staff in Wisconsin prisons have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

CNN also reported that half of the young Black men from Milwaukee County were in state prison, according to a 2013 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute. 

Despite being the state with the “lowest Black/white disparity,” Hawaii has Black people imprisoned “more than two times the rate of whites,” according to the report.

Hawaii has a population of about 1.4 million. About 26 percent identified as white, and the state has a 2.2 percent population of Black people, according to the U.S. Census.


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

UNVACCINATED PEOPLE SHOULD EXPECT TO CATCH COVID-19 EVERY 16 MONTHS

TOP HEALTH EXPERT CALLS FOR ‘URGENT’ RESEARCH ON NEW UK VARIANT THAT MIGHT BE MORE CONTAGIOUS THAN DELTA

FLORIDA SCHOOL QUARANTINES STUDENTS WHO GET VACCINATED FOR 30 DAYS

US CITIES AT WAR WITH THEIR OWN POLICE DEPARTMENTS OVER VACCINE MANDATES

45 STATES ARE DOING BETTER WITH COVID-19, BUT THESE 5 ARE SURGING