Black America’s Prison Complex

The disparities in the African-American community can be blamed on the lack of educational, healthcare, or employment opportunities; however, one facet of African-American life that is affected disproportionately is the Black prison population.


The prison population in the United States is overwhelmed with African-Americans, yet Blacks are not more prone to commit crimes than any other ethnic group.  The National Urban League’s annual State of Black America report sights that the racial inequalities in the prison system are horrendous. 


Currently there are 580,000 African-American males serving sentences in state or federal prison, with nearly 70 percent of those inmates having never completed high school. The United States imprisons more of its citizens then any other country in the world, resulting in 32 percent of all Black men between the ages of 20-29 having been through the criminal judicial system at one point in their lives. 


The substantial Black male prison population is complemented, unfortunately, by a rising Black women population. Black women are eight times more likely to go to prison than White women and three times as likely as Latino women. 


While Blacks represent 12.7 perecent of the US population, they make up 48 percent of the judicial system, and 42.5  percent of prisoners under the death sentence.


The disparities in the Black community can be attributed to the fact that drug offence convictions have increased significantly, directly affecting the Black community. 


Responding to the perceived drug problem in America, the Regan administration took an official stand against drugs.  When the “war on drugs” began in 1982, there was an increase in financial support for drug law enforcement. As a result, the arrest for drug offences; a total of 581,000 arrests in 1980 nearly tripled to a record high of 1,584,000 in 1999.


This so called “war on drugs” did not lead to putting more violent defendants behind bars, but simply produced a higher level of prison occupancy.  Between 1980 and 1997, while the numbers of drug offenders entering into prison skyrocketed, the rate of convictions for violent crimes declined from 55 percent to 47 percent. 


The influx of Black prisoners directly correlates to the financial disparities in community programs.  Money that would have normally gone to higher education has been diverted to prisons, suggests the report.


Once a prison is built, the state will fill the cells with whomever whether it was a violent crime or not.  These build’em and fill’em policies are taking the place of higher education.  As more prison cells are being built, fewer colleges are being constructed.


Researches suggest the “society” in 1994 spent about $2.8 billion on higher education in the Black male community, and spent $10 billion to place them in jail.  Today, more then half of all prisoners are serving time on drug related charges.