On average, states lock up black people at six times the rate of white people, reports the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI). Many so-called “progressive states” like New Jersey, Connecticut, and California have the most significant racial disparities, locking up Black people at a rate up to 11.9 times higher than white people.
Every state locks up Black people at at least twice the rate it locks up white people.
A new PPI dataset provides state-by-state breakdowns of prison and jail populations by race as well as population breakdowns by sex. PPI says it provides apples-to-apples state comparisons in three formats: counts, rates, and percentages.
The organization says it has standardized incompatible measurements found in the various original data sources. For example, race data for jails are reported only by percentage by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, but the same data for prisons are presented as counts and rates per 100,000 people.
PPI issued more than 100 new graphics showing specific characteristics of each state’s racial disparities in incarceration. The graphics are seen on state profile pages.
The data raise important questions for policymakers and law enforcement, PPI says, including, are they aware of how dramatic these racial disparities are, what states are doing to address these disparities and whether they are monitoring policing and prosecution practices to mitigate disparities.
PPI notes that the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes state and federal prison data annually Jail data by state are collected and published less frequently, with the most recent dating back to 2019, and before that, 2013.