Incarceration rates of African Americans compared to Incarceration rates of other ethnic groups | MyPaperHub



Facts show that the numbers incarcerations have greatly increased since the 1980s with the United States having the greatest number of people incarcerated anywhere in the world. It has an estimated twenty-five percent of the people incarcerated in the world yet it holds up to five percent of the world’s population. This means that the number of people in prisons is quite high. The government of the United States has put a lot of focus on correctional control over the society and the combination of the people in prison together t with those on probation or parole then we have almost four percent of the entire population under some form of a correctional system. In addition to these high figures, the aspect of correction has been greatly affected by social problems of racial disparities. One of the main racial aspects is the fact that African Americans form the greatest number of people incarcerated. They make up an estimate of forty percent of the number of people in correctional control in the country. This is a very high number and shows great disparities in the correctional system of America. The high number is attributed to the high rates of incarceration which is high for African Americans than any other racial group and especially white Americans. In combination with other racial minorities such as Hispanics, the prison system is filled with more fifty percent African Americans and Hispanics, and this is a very high number that is close to a quarter of the entire population of the country. These disparities shed light on the existence of social problems in the country associated with racial discrimination within prison systems (CRIMINAL JUSTICE FACT SHEET, 2017).

According to Wilderman(2009), “Although family breakdown was not the immediate cause of the American prison boom, mass incarceration has had potentially profound effects on the family life of those caught in the web of the criminal justice system” (Wildeman, 2009). The statistics associated with the disparities in the rates of incarceration show that a good percentage of African Americans in the society would have to expect to go to prison at one point in their lives. The rates differ on such great extents that if they were equal to that of white Americans then, the population of prisons would have to go down by half the number in existence right now. One of the major consequences for the significant number of incarceration of African Americans is associated with drug-related crimes.  Statistics show that a great number of African Americans are associated with the use of some form of illicit drug. However, white Americans have been found to use drugs five times more, but the rates of arrests for African Americans are ten times more than that of whites (Moore, 2015).

Most of the arrests that occur in the country are drug related and thus means that more African Americans get sent to prison. Prison sentencing is also a factor that greatly affects the time people spend in prison where African Americans have a longer sentencing for drug-related crimes than whites for even worse crimes such as violence.  With these statistics associated with drugs, law enforcement in the country has been developed as a machine that sent African Americans to prisons. This has led to the establishment of a prison complex that is very much racially divided.  African Americans have become very prone to arrests because of drug-related crimes, and this has led to great numbers of arrests, detentions, and admission to prisons. The population of these institution has for the years changed color and is now filled with African-Americans and other people of color considered racial minorities in the country (Puglise, 2016).

Economic isolation led to the development of crimes in inner cities of many cities in the country. As a result, many African-Americans and other people of color find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Most of these inner cities are where minorities live and form communities, and with limited economic resources, crimes mainly in the form of dealing with drugs became their main source of income. The economic characteristic of the United States is much divided between the rich and the poor and white Americans who are also the dominant segment of the population also have the economic advantage that comes with it. Minority groups with African Americans being the biggest suffer from a lot of economic problems, and that’s has been one of the major contributing factors to the high rates of drug-related crimes. Another important factor is to understand that African Americans from a very low percentage of people that use drugs in the country, however, most arrests that are made on a daily basis consist of more than thirty percent possession of drugs (Wildeman, 2009). This means that many of the people arrested are not even the ones that use the drugs and as explained above, white Americans use drugs five times more, but African Americans get arrested ten times more. The government has also put stern measures on the fight against drugs, and this means the use of strict measures. As a result of most of the people, caught with simple drug possession end up spending many years in prison. The war on drugs policies is very unsustainable because they have failed to address the underlying factors that fuel the drug industry. The government is focusing its resources on law enforcement agents instead of cracking down on the real culprits who are the manufacturers and actual users of the drugs. “Shifts in politics and policy, however, are only half the story. The newly punitive system of criminal sentencing would have had largely symbolic significance but for the ready supply of chronically idle young men that came to swell the nation’s prisons and jails. Urban deindustrialization eroded the labor market for unskilled young men while punitive politics gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s” (Wildeman, 2009).

One of the drugs that’s has led to many of the arrests and great disparities is cocaine. There are two types of cocaine. Powder cocaine is a pure version of cocaine that is mostly found by wealthy white individuals, and there is the crack cocaine which is an impure form and lowers in price and therefore, accessible to lower income people and in this case racial minorities mostly blacks. Another aspect is associated with disparities in sentencing for crack cocaine crimes.  Because of the aspect of high arrest for possession, many African Americans have been arrested, sent to prison and charged with many years in prison for crimes related to the drugs despite the fact that Hispanics and whites have been associated more with the use of the drug than African Americans themselves. In addition to the strict rules and policies associated with the war on drugs, habitual offenders are even met with more strict measures that have had greater negative implications on the society. These aspects have developed negative social systems against African Americans, and they have developed a perception, stereotype, and prejudice that has associated African Americans with violence, drugs, and imprisonment. It has grown to become a vicious cycle of negative social aspects that has greatly affected the African American communities, and more youths find themselves cornered between the need to find some income through selling drugs and imprisonment. This system has created a prison system with African Americans as the majority, and the correctional system expected to help change the ways of law offenders for the best has been developed into a system of mass incarceration which is a now a great social control measure (Strauss, 2017).

The prison system has proved ineffective because of the high numbers of released prisoners returning to crime. Incarceration of people of African Americans descent in the United States is not well justified and has led to the development of great social and economic implications of the African American society. Many children are left with a parent or both and lead to difficulty in children’s performance in school, economic hardships for mothers and reduced racial achievements for most minority groups in the country. The prison system has had more negative implications on African American homes and societies than the benefits that many expect the system to provide to the society (Wildeman, 2009). There is also an aspect of coercive mobility associated with the churning of the population between prison systems and the society especially low-income society where most African Americans live. With this mobility, people are arrested and sent to jail, and after spending their time, they return to the same societies. This is a factor that has greatly increased crimes in these neighborhoods and has increased the social problems of crime in general. They have also increased the aspect of crime victimization because first offenders are more prone to being arrested together with those associated with them. As a result, they easily get sent back to jail in addition to others that they might have influenced into criminal activities. It is, therefore, evident of the great disparities that are in existence within the prison system. These disparities have seen great incarceration of African Americans where they make up the biggest percentage of the people incarcerated. It brings out the big question of the social problems of racial segregation that are still in existence up to this day (Robert, 2017).



Works Cited


Moore, Antonio. The Black Male Incarceration Problem Is Real and It’s Catastrophic. 2015. <>.

Puglise, Nicole. Black Americans incarcerated five times more than white people – report. 2016. <>.

Robert D. Crutchfield, Gregory A. Weeks. The Effects of Mass Incarceration on Communities of Color. 2017. <>.

Strauss, Valerie. Mass incarceration of African Americans affects the racial achievement gap — report. 2017. <>.

Wildeman, Bruce Western and Christopher. "The Black Family and Mass Incarceration." The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2009).

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