As With Prison, Whites are Going to Jail More, Blacks Less

Last week I published a piece in Washington Post showing that from 2000-2014, the African-American imprisonment rate had fallen and the non-Hispanic White rate had risen. Several people contacted me to say that if I had looked at jails, the picture would have been different. So I did that, and things in fact look the same. This chart is from the latest Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of jails.

Jaildata

From 2000 to 2014, the African-American population grew by over 7.5 million but the number of African-Americans in jail barely budged, dropping the African-American rate of being in jail by 18% (quite similar to the drop in the imprisonment rate). Again, as with the prison data, non-Hispanic whites are going in the opposite direction: Their rate of being in jail rose by 16%.

In short, if you broaden the lens of analysis from prisons to include jails, the patterns I wrote about are even stronger: Being behind bars is becoming a less common experience for African-Americans and a more common experience for non-Hispanic Whites.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.