Mass Incarceration’s Failure: America’s Bias in Arrest, Conviction and Sentencing

(The Huffington Post) – Mass incarceration has become one of the most debated criminal justice issues in American media. Through this dialogue a movement to decrease the number of people imprisoned has gained momentum, as we have realized the error in the model of incarceration used over the last 30 years in the United States. Interestingly, the reality of the systems truly unfair application, and the resulting fallout has not been covered fully.

American incarceration is not a problem with consequences that have been levied evenly across gender, and racial lines. Even though they are only 6 percent of the U.S. population a mere 19 million people counting children, African American males make up nearly half of all American prisoners (with a total of around 800,000 people imprisoned). This represents a 559 percent increase in the number of black men behind bars since 1980.

The incarceration rate for young black men ages 20 to 39, is nearly 10,000 per 100,000. To give context, during the racial discrimination of apartheid in South Africa, the prison rate for black male South Africans, rose to 851 per 100,000.

As shown in the chart above, the incarceration rates for black males are in contrast to much lower numbers for other groups. Despite the images portrayed by shows like Orange is the New Black, nationally there are a relatively small number of women of all races behind bars. 93 percent of the total number of Americans incarcerated are men, and only 7 percent are women. Of the over 2 million Americans incarcerated, only 200,000 are women.

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