According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, non-Hispanic blacks comprised 39.4 percent of the total prison and jail population in 2009, with an imprisonment rate that was six times higher than white males and almost three times higher than Hispanic males.
Journalist Lisa Ling has covered a range of topics on her documentary series “Our America,” which were aired in November 2011. In an episode titled “Incarceration Generation,” Ling explored the disproportionate number of black men behind bars and the challenges they face after being released. The show also discussed the effect imprisonment has had on multiple generations, creating a cycle of poverty in the African American community.
Ling spoke about her work with the OWN network (The Oprah Winfrey Network) series that is now in its second season, a venture she took on after doing investigative work for the National Geographic Channel and a three year stint on ABC’s “The View.”
“It has certainly been the most gratifying work experience I’ve ever had,” she said, according to Eurweb.com. “I can’t tell you how many times throughout the course of shooting this series, that I felt like I was in a foreign place or a distant place. But the reality is that all of these stories, in their greatest complexity, are in our backyards.”
Statistics show that an incarcerated man is not foreign within the black community. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, non-Hispanic blacks comprised 39.4 percent of the total prison and jail population in 2009, with an imprisonment rate that was six times higher than white males and almost three times higher than Hispanic males.
That number goes beyond prison doors and into homes. A Bureau of Justice Statistics special report found that over 1.7 million children had a parent in prison in 2008, usually a father. Of those fathers, four in 10 in state or federal prisons were black. Studies have found that children of incarcerated parents face unique difficulties including increased chances of homelessness, agressive behavior, failure in school and future imprisonment.
In addition, ex-offenders are far less likely to find a job upon their release from prison, crippled not only by their criminal record, but oftentimes, additionally hindered by their lack of experience and education. According to a 2003 report by the New York University Urban Institute Reentry Roundtable, about 70 percent of offenders and ex-offenders are high school dropouts.
Source: BLACK VOICES
[Lisa J. Ling (born 1973) is an American journalist, best known for her role as a co-host of ABC’s The View (from 1999–2002), host of National Geographic Explorer, reporter on Channel One News, and special correspondent for the Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN. She is the older sister of journalist Laura Ling.]
U.S. Prison System: Largest in the World
The U.S. prison system is the largest in the world, not only in terms of overall number of inmates, but as a percentage of the total population as well. With over 2.3 million people behind bars, U.S. prisoners represent almost 25% of the world’s total prison population (the U.S. population is 5% of the world). The only country that comes close is Russia, with South Africa a distant third.
State by State
The relative distribution of the prison population in the U.S. is concentrated mostly in the southern states. Louisiana, Alabama, and Oklahoma have the highest number of inmates per 100,000 residents:
Prison population by race
A large percentage of the prison population is African American. But Instead of simply looking at the total numbers of inmates by race, if you compare that number to their respective population in the U.S., you get a much clearer picture of the racial breakdown of the U.S. prison population. In fact, what these numbers show is that 5% of black males who live in the United States are in prison or jail, 2% of Hispanic males, and less than 1% of white males.
More general statistics about the U.S. prison system:
- There are more than 3,300 prisons in the United States
- In 2006, $68,747,203,000 was spent on corrections
- In 2001 among facilities operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, it cost $22,632 per inmate, or $62.01 per day.
Growth of U.S. Prisons
On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs”. What followed was a surge in spending on law enforcement and a host of new federal and state policies that included harsher penalties for drug related crimes. Mandatory minimum sentences were established increasing jail terms even for first time offenders. Prisons quickly became over-crowded and began rapidly expanding as to accommodate the surging convictions.
Black offenders account for almost two thirds of the total year end prison population (65.3%). One third are white offenders (31.6%), and the remaining three percent are other races.
• 9,290 (31.6%) White.
• 19,294 (65.3%) Black.
• 544 (1.8%) Indian.
• 29 (0.1%) Oriental
• 273 (1.0%) Other
• 65 (0.2%) Not Recorded
Source: North Carolina Department of Corrections, Population by Race, Research & Planning, Revised: October 07, 2002
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics