Racial disparities in US prisons decline: study

Racial, ethnic disparities decreased across prison, jail, probation, parole populations from 2000 to 2016


Racial disparities in U.S. prisons have declined over 16 years but black Americans are still more likely to be imprisoned than whites, according to a study released Tuesday.

From 2000 to 2016, racial and ethnic disparities decreased across prison, jail, probation, and parole populations, said the study by the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice think tank.

“For example, the black-white state imprisonment disparity fell from 8.3-to-1 to 5.1-to-1, and Hispanic-white parole disparity fell from 3.6-to-1 to 1.4-to-1,” said the report.

“Black-white disparities in state imprisonment rates fell across all major crime categories. The largest drop was for drug offenses,” said the study, adding that in 2000, black people were imprisoned for drug crimes at 15 times the rate of whites and by 2016, that ratio dropped to five times.

Reported offending rates of blacks for rape, robbery and aggravated assault declined by an average of 3% per year between 2000 and 2016.

That also contributed to a fall in the black incarceration rate for these crimes, said the study.

The decline in racial disparity for black women was even sharper than for black men. Six black women were imprisoned for every white woman in 2000, which dropped to two black women for every white woman.

U.S. prison populations have long been characterized by racial and ethnic disparities.

The Council on Criminal Justice used data from the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the FBI and other national statistics to outline the gap in disparities.

The study also suggested that since 2000, black and Hispanic incarceration rates have fallen faster than those for whites, asserting that the changes have been noted by media and advocacy organizations.

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