Issues

 

black men born in 1991 can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 17 white men.

%

of US prison population is comprised of people of color despite being only 37% of the US population

%

longer sentences for black men compared to white men who are committed for the same crime

Mass Incarceration

Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in America overall increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million.

Today, the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s prisoners.

North Carolina’s prison population more than doubled between 1980 and 2016 and is expected to exceed capacity by 2025.

In North Carolina, the most frequent crime of inmates entering prison in 2019 was non-trafficking drug offenses (nearly 20%).

 

A 2013 study found that after adjusting for numerous other variables, federal prosecutors were almost twice as likely to bring charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences against black defendants as against white defendants accused of similar crimes.

A 2015 study of first-time felons found that while black men overall received sentences of 270 days longer than white men for similar crimes, the discrepancy between whites and dark-skinned blacks was 400 days.

Police are more likely to pull over black drivers than white drivers, according to a March, 2019 study in which researchers compiled and analyzed data from more than 100 million traffic stops throughout the US.

During routine traffic stops, black and Latino drivers are more likely to be searched for contraband — even though white drivers are consistently more likely to be found with contraband. A 2018 study of traffic stops in Vermont found that black drivers are up to four times more likely than white drivers to be searched during a traffic stop, even though white drivers are 30 to 50 percent more likely to be found with contraband.

Racial and Ethnic Bias

Overall, African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested. Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted. And once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.

Since the beginning of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses in the US skyrocketed from 40,900 in 1980 to 452,964 in 2017.

African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.

In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 million whites and 4 million African Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the last month.

African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.

If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.

As of 2017, North Carolina’s Black per capita adult imprisonment rate is 4.5 times higher than its white per capita rate.

In 2016, Black people accounted for 52.9% of the prison population and made up 21.5% of North Carolina’s overall adult population.

 

Bail and Pre-Trial Detention

On any given day, about 65% of people in jail are there awaiting trial.

Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to be denied bail, to have higher money bond set, to be detained because they cannot pay their bond and, therefore, more likely to remain incarcerated before trial – even when the crimes they commit are exactly the same as whites.

Seventy percent of pretrial releases require money bond, an especially high hurdle for low-income defendants who are disproportionately people of color.

Pretrial detention has been shown to increase the odds of conviction. People who are detained awaiting trial are more likely to accept a less favorable plea deal, more likely to be sentenced to prison, and more likely to receive longer sentences.

School to Prison Pipeline

In North Carolina, school-based cases make up about 40% of the referrals to the juvenile justice system. Most of the referrals are for minor, nonviolent offenses.

Only 8% of school-based referrals were for serious offenses during the 2016-17 school year.

African American students make up 26% of the overall student population but received 57% of the suspensions.

A single suspension can triple the likelihood a student will enter the juvenile justice system.

 Youth of color are 2.5 times more likely to be referred to a juvenile court and 1.5 times more likely to be placed in secure confinement than white youth.

In North Carolina, 9.2 out of every 10,000 Black students were arrested compared to only 1.6 white students.

About 147 out of every 1,000 Black students were suspended from NC schools in 2015-2016, compared to about 44 white students out of 1000.

 Using 2015-16 data, Black students were arrested 5.81 times the rate of white students in NC.

2011 study of school discipline in Texas found that after isolating race by adjusting for 83 other variables, a Black student had a 31 percent greater chance of being disciplined than an identical white or Hispanic student.

A study of suspensions in Chicago schools from 2013-2014 found that Black male students were more than five times more likely to be suspended than white students. Black female students were seven times more likely than white female students. After adjusting for academic level and social disadvantages, Black males were still five times more likely to be suspended, while the disparity for Black females grew to 13 times more likely.

Support Our Work

Help NC CRED reform the criminal justice system. 

Get In Touch