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.


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.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

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