Black Americans incarcerated at nearly five times rate of white Americans: research

A study published Wednesday by the Sentencing Project found "staggering disproportionalities" between incarceration rates of white people and more diverse community groups.

The study showed that Black Americans were incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of white people. Meanwhile, Latino people were imprisoned at 1.3 times the rate of non-Latino white people.

Specifically, the study found that in 12 states, many of which were in the south, over half of the prison population was Black.

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In Wisconsin, where the rates of imprisonment of Black people are higher than anywhere else in the country, 1 of every 36 Black Wisconsin citizens is in prison.

In Hawaii, which had the lowest Black-to-white disparity, Black people were still imprisoned at more than double the rate of white people.

"During the present era of criminal justice reform, not enough emphasis has been focused on ending racial and ethnic disparities systemwide," the report said. 

In terms of potential solutions, the Sentencing Project recommended eliminating mandatory sentences for all crimes, requiring racial impact statements in proposed criminal legislation and decriminalizing low-level drug offenses.

The study also noted that America is the global leader in terms of incarceration, with over 1.2 million people in state prisons nationally. 

It also found that nine states — Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Alabama, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii and California — had reduced their prison population by 30 percent or more in recent years.