Study: Racial disparities narrow in US prisons

Study: Racial disparities narrow in US prisons
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Racial disparities in prisons have decreased across the U.S. in the last 16 years, but black Americans are still more likely to be incarcerated than white Americans, according to a new study. 

The Council on Criminal Justice released a report Tuesday outlining the narrowing gap in racial disparities in the criminal justice system using data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI, and other national statistics. 

Black and white disparity in state imprisonment rates fell across all major crime categories, with the largest drop seen for drug use offenses, according to the report.

Blacks were imprisoned for drug crimes at five times the rate of white people, which represents a stark decrease from 2000 when blacks were imprisoned for drug crimes at 15 times the rate of whites. 

The study found that reported offending rates for black people for rape, robbery and aggravated assault declined by an average of 3 percent per year between 2000 and 2016, which the report said contributed to the drop in black imprisonment rate for these crimes. The decrease was offset in part by an increase in the expected time to be served upon admission, which increased for both blacks and whites, according to the report. 

Adam Gelb, president and chief executive of the council that launched in July to seek solutions to issues facing the criminal justice system, told The Associated Press that many people do not see that the racial gap has narrowed. 

“Most people think this is a bad problem that’s getting worse. It turns out it’s a bad problem that’s getting a little better, and for very complex reasons that we need to understand at a much deeper level,” Gelb told AP.