Washington state has imprisoned Indigenous people at more than six times the rate of white people, News From The States reports. That’s according to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics data that the Prison Policy Initiative analyzed. The 2021 figures posted by the advocacy group are the most recent information available. Native peoples make up about 2% of the state’s population and 5% of the state prison population. While Washington incarcerates fewer people than most states, it also incarcerates a higher rate of Indigenous people than much of the nation. The disparity between Indigenous and white incarceration in Washington has roughly doubled over the past decade.
Over that time, the imprisoned share of both groups fell, but for white people the decline was steeper. In 2010, the incarceration rate for white people in Washington was 437 per 100,000. For Indigenous people it was 1,427 per 100,000. By 2021, those figures dropped to 149 and 981 per 100,000, respectively. Disparities exist among other racial groups. Black people in 2021 were incarcerated at 5.7 times the rate of white people, just under the national average. Hispanic people are incarcerated at 1.5 times the rate of white people. The number of incarcerated Indigenous people may also be underreported. Wanda Bertram of the Prison Policy Initiative said states with a higher population of Indigenous people often have higher Indigenous incarceration rates, but Washington’s rate is still considerably higher than the national average.