Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment

by Peter Wagner
Updated August 28, 2012

At the end of 2010, there were 2,266,800 people in U.S. prisons and jails. For the second year in a row, the total prison population fell slightly, although some states and the federal system continued to increase the number of people incarcerated.

As of June 30, 2010, the U.S. incarceration rate was 732 per 100,000 residents. But when you break down the statistics you see that incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment. The graphs that follow illustrate that the young, the male, the Black and the Latino are disproportionately incarcerated. Put those factors together and you have almost 9% of Black men in their late 20s behind bars.

By race and ethnicity:

incarceration rates by race graph


By sex:

incarceration rates by gender graph


By race and gender, the numbers for Blacks and Latinos skyrocket:

incarceraton rates for males by race


Almost 9% of Blacks in their late 20s — and almost 4% of Latinos of that age — are incarcerated:

incarceration rates for young males


Globally unprecedented:

map showing the number of incarcerated people per country

Statistics as of June 30, 2010 and December 31, 2010 from Correctional Population in the United States and we calculated the incarceration rates by race with additional data from the U.S. Census. All references to Blacks and Whites are for what the Bureau of Justice Statistics and U.S. Census refer to as “non-Hispanic Blacks” and “non-Hispanic Whites”.)

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Meet us

  • February 5, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in New York for the reception of the exhibition, Prison Obscura, curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook. The exhibition includes Prison Map by Josh Begley and Proliferation by Paul Rucker, both of which rely on Prison Policy Initiative data to show the scale of mass incarceration. The event will be held at Parsons School of Design from 6:30-8:30pm and a Curator’s Talk by Pete Brooks at 5:45pm.
  • February 6, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be at Yale for a panel presentation at the Equality Re-Imagined Conference.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.
  • February 24, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking to the American Constitution Society Chapter at UConn School of Law at 12:30pm. Topics will include mass incarceration, prison gerrymandering, sentencing enhancement zones and more.

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Events

  • February 5, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be in New York for the reception of the exhibition, Prison Obscura, curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook. The exhibition includes Prison Map by Josh Begley and Proliferation by Paul Rucker, both of which rely on Prison Policy Initiative data to show the scale of mass incarceration. The event will be held at Parsons School of Design from 6:30-8:30pm and a Curator’s Talk by Pete Brooks at 5:45pm.
  • February 6, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be at Yale for a panel presentation at the Equality Re-Imagined Conference.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.
  • February 24, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking to the American Constitution Society Chapter at UConn School of Law at 12:30pm. Topics will include mass incarceration, prison gerrymandering, sentencing enhancement zones and more.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.

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