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Black-White Imprisonment Rate Disparity Down 40% In Two Decades

Over the first two decades of this century, the disparity between Black and white state imprisonment rates fell by 40 percent. In 2020, Black adults were imprisoned at 4.9 times the rate of white adults, down from 8.2 times in 2000, the Council on Criminal Justice reports. Half of the disparity reduction occurred in the first five years of the century. The rate of narrowing slowed in more recent years. Black-white disparities in state imprisonment rates fell across all four offense categories—violent, property, drug, and public order—with the largest drop in the drug category. Disparity in drug imprisonment rates fell 75 percent and accounted for about half of the overall decrease in the Black-White imprisonment rate disparity. In 2020, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 15 percent drop in the state prison population. That decline did not result in a change in Black-white imprisonment disparities. Faster growth in the nation's Black population contributed more to its imprisonment rate decline than did white adult resident population growth. The Black-white disparity in prison admission rates fell from 7.4 in 2000 to 3.2 in 2019. The admission rate for Blacks fell by about half while it increased by 11 percent for Whites. The racial disparity in admissions fell by more than 80 percent for drug offenses and by almost 55 percent for property offenses between 2000 and 2019. A disparity of about 2-to-1 remains for those crimes. While the Black-white disparity in prison admission rates declined, disparity in the length of stay in prison increased and accounted for a growing portion of total disparity. The expected length of stay in prison for Black adults increased from 2.2 to 2.5 years, while for White adults it fell from 2 to 1.8 years.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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