Black incarceration hasn’t been this low in a generation

From The Washington Post:

Throughout the presidential campaign season, both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have been excoriated for supporting the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which critics charge is fueling mass incarceration of African Americans. Defenders of the law, including Bill Clinton himself, maintain that it was a necessary response to rising violent crime and that it passed with substantial support from Black voters and elected officials. This heated debate about whether the 1994 law is responsible for African Americans increasingly being behind bars can never be resolved, for a reason that may surprise many observers: The African American imprisonment rate has been declining for many years. Indeed, the likelihood of African American men and women being in prison today is lower than it was a generation ago when the law was passed, as these two charts show.

The quarter-century of data in the charts come from the Bureau of Justice Statistics series of annual reports on the state and federal prison population. The rate of imprisonment of black men (left axis) is in absolute terms consistently much higher than that of black women (right axis), but the shape of the two curves is remarkably similar. In the 1990s, the explosive growth in imprisonment that began in the mid-1970s was slowing but still underway, affecting people of all races but African Americans worst of all. But around the turn of the millennium, the African American imprisonment rate began declining year after year. Other government reports document that a parallel decline has occurred in the county and city jail population as well.

At the end of 2014, the African American male imprisonment rate had dropped to a level not seen since early 1993. The change for African American women is even …

Continue Reading