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Black Incarceration Rates Plummet

Good news: The racial demography of America’s prison populations is inching slowly toward reflecting the nation’s general demography. Blacks make up 12.6 percent of the US population but represent 38 percent of America’s prisoners. This is still far too high, but the numbers are trending in the right direction, thanks in large part to revisions in federal drug sentencing laws. The New York Times reports:

The decline in incarceration rates was most striking for black women, dropping 30.7 percent over the ten-year period. In 2000, black women were imprisoned at six times the rate of white women; by 2009, they were 2.8 times more likely to be in prison. For black men, the rate of imprisonment decreased by 9.8 percent; in 2000 they were incarcerated at 7.7 times the rate of white men, a rate that fell to 6.4 times that of white men by 2009. […]

[Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project] said that especially for black women, the drop in incarceration compared with whites was “all about drug offenses.”

These statistics are a mixed bag. It’s excellent news that the percentage of blacks among prison inmates is falling and also good that less draconian drug laws are the cause. But some of the decrease is due to other people going to jail more. That’s not good.

Still, the most exciting news here concerns black women. This is a cohort with rising entrepreneurial savvy—yet another reason to be bullish on America’s future as a whole.

[Handcuff image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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