As I was reading Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean, I wondered about what amount of African Americans were imprisoned versus Whites. Sister Prejean discusses the harsh treatment of the prisoners and the state of the prisons.

She also discusses how common it is for African American men to get harsh sentences and are not properly defended in court. I was quite surprised and honestly mortified at what Prejean wrote about with what the incarcerated went through and their living conditions in the book.

Granted the book was published in the early 1990’s. I was curious what the statistics were in today’s world. According to naacp.org “African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million incarcerated population.” This website also reported that African Americans are incarcerated at about six times the rate of whites.

There could be many reasons for why this is happening. African Americans could just not have the resources and access to a bright future. They could receive racism and could be penalized a lot harder just for their skin color. They could live in an urban struggling town.

No matter the reasons, it should be stopped. On americanprogress.org they report that people of color make up only 30% of the U.S. population and 60% of them are imprisoned. A number of people imprisoned has also gone up.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Incarceration of African Americans by Ellisandra is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

5 Comments
  1. Dave 11 months ago

    We can’t stereotype that all african americans are criminals. Statistics show that other races, including whites, commit just as many crimes.

  2. Ariel 12 months ago

    Dear Ellisandra,

    I enjoyed your post and appreciate that you are willing to shed light on such a terrible truth. I will be sure to read Dead Man Walking next. These statistics are incredibly upsetting because this systematic racism keeps poc from their education, which keeps them in these situations where they are not able to thrive financially, which can sometimes lead to crime, which in turn keeps them in the districts with the terrible schools and so on. The cycle needs to be broken. It needs to be broken now if we expect to give poc a real chance.

    I’d also like to suggest that you watch “13th”, it’s a documentary and sadly it’s available only on Netflix but if you have one you should watch it. The documentary features politicians, scholars and activists (including Angela Davis) and they analyze the criminalization of the black man and woman and the incarceration boom. It’s so informative, and captivating at the same time.

    ~Ariel
    Also check out my own youthvoices post on systematic racism, I think you’ll like it.

  3. Celia 12 months ago

    Ellisandra,

    If you’re interested in all the problems with the American Prison system, and the racial inequality in the justice system, you should check out the web series/tv show Adam Ruins Everything. He covers a lot of that topic, from our corrupt prison system to racism in the war on drugs. The clips are short and informational, and also entertaining.

    Celia

  4. Katie 12 months ago

    Dear Ellie, I agree that the incarceration ratio between Blacks and Whites is alarming. It shows that racism is very much alive today. I think one of the biggest reasons that the percentage of incarcerated African Americans is so high is because the School to Prison Pipeline and its historical and present inequalities in our education system. In recent years our education system has had a detrimental shift in its disciplinary measures. Instead of employing traditional disciplinary measures like counseling or detention, schools are becoming dependent on law enforcement, suspensions,and expulsions to punish students. This shift in disciplinary measures does nothing but harm academic achievement as it increases the chances of a student being held back, drop out, or become involved with the juvenile criminal justice system. According to the NAACPLDF, African American boys account for an overwhelming number of school-enforced punishments, as well as the majority of arrests for school related incidents. African Americans are nearly three times as likely to be suspended, and Latino students are nearly one-and-a-half times likely to be suspended, as their white peers.

    Facts about the School to Prison Pipeline (Nationally, source Advancement Project)
    Over 3,000,000 out of school suspensions annually
    Over 70% of students involved in school arrests are Hispanic or African American
    1 in 20 is the Likelihood of a White student being suspended
    1 in 14 is the Likelihood of a Latino student being suspended
    1 in 13 is the Likelihood of a Native American being suspended
    1 in 6 is the Likelihood of a African American being suspended
    1 in 4 is the Likelihood of a African American with a disability being suspended

    In Utah alone (source Utah College of Law)
    1 of 3 inmates at the Utah State Prison is a high school drop out
    1 in 5 students drop out of Utah High Schools
    1 in 3 of Utah’s Black and Hispanic students fail to finish high school
    Black and Hispanic students are 3x more likely to be suspended than white students
    Students who are suspended ONCE in the 9th grade are TWICE as likely to drop out than their peers.

  5. Vicky 12 months ago

    Dear Ellisandra, I am currently reading Dead Man Walking to and I also was surprised about the whole African American thing. I am Black and it sucks watching people of your own color sometimes get put in a situation just because of skin color. It is sickening on how corrupt our world is. Like you said no matter the reasons, they should be stopped and I totally agree with you.

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