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|National Center on Institutions and Alternatives/Justice Policy Institute||Embargoed for Release: August 13, 2001
||(Monday Print, Sunday Electronic)
||For More Information, contact:
||Laura Jones (202) 737-7270, ext. 254
Color of the Keystone: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Use of Incarceration in Pennsylvania.1
Two centuries ago, during the American Revolution, Pennsylvania led the nation in the designing one of America's first modern prisons. The Walnut Street Prison, in Philadelphia, originally housed opponents to the revolution, but was reconstituted by reformers to be the first institution in the nation with cellblocks specifically designed to house long-term inmates. The first corrections reformers who built the prison believed that a clean, well-run institution, staffed by people that cared for inmates and their future might rehabilitate people that broke some law.2 Today, far from leading the nation in humane, effective ways of rehabilitation and treatment, Pennsylvania leads the nation in having the greatest racial disparity in the state's varied uses of incarceration. Recent studies have shown that:
- In 2000, Pennsylvania led all jurisdictions (including all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the federal prison system) in having the greatest disparity between the White and non-White incarceration rate. In the Keystone state-which in 2000 was 85% White (not including Latinos)- ethnic and racial minorities were incarcerated at 13 times the rate of Whites. African Americans were incarcerated at 16 times the rate of Whites, and Hispanics were incarcerated at just under 9 times the rate of Whites. While the White incarceration rate in Pennsylvania is in line with the more modest use of incarceration seen in Western Europe and Canada, the African American and Hispanic incarceration rates are amongst the highest in the world. 3
- In the last twenty years, the number of prisoners in Pennsylvania more than quadrupled, from 8,112 (1980) to 36,614 (2000). During that same period, the proportion of Pennsylvania prisoners that were White dropped from 45%, to 34%, and the number of non-White prisoners grew to 66%. Put another way, of the 28,000 new inmates that were added to Pennsylvania prisons during the last twenty-years, 7 in 10 new inmates were Non-White. African Americans made-up 57% of the growth in inmates during this period.4
- While the number of prisoners in Pennsylvania quadrupled over the last 20 years, the number of drug offenders incarcerated in the Keystone state grew 16 times (from 311 to 5005).5 In 1996, 28% of all prison admissions in Pennsylvania were for drug offenses.6
- Between 1986 and 1996, the rate at which Whites entered Pennsylvania prisons for a drug offense declined slightly (from 4.48 to 4.44 per 100,000). Meanwhile, the rate at which African Americans entered Pennsylvania prisons for a drug crime grew five fold (26 to 148 per 100,000). In 1996, African Americans entered Pennsylvania prisons on a drug crime at 33 times the rate of Whites. African Americans youths were admitted to adult prison for a drug crime at an astonishing 55 times the rate of Whites.
Impact on Pennsylvania Communities: Union County, PA-97% of Young African Americans in Prison.
As the Keystone states urban minority population continues to be taken out of the cities and incarcerated in rural prisons, the new census figures reveal the way in which incarceration policies are reshaping the racial and ethnic demography of the region.
In Union County, Pennsylvania's three federal prisons contain 3,656 of the county's 33,258 adult citizens--just over 10% of the county's total population. In a community where ethnic and racial minorities make up only 14% of population, the three prisons have radically reshaped the ethnic, racial and social demography of the region:
- In a community which is 86% White, 77% of Union County's Hispanic adult residents are federal prisoners, and 72% of African American adults who "live" in Union County are federal prisoners as well. Meanwhile, less than 3% of the Caucasian adult residents are in one of the three federal prisons.7
- 97% of the 20-55 year-old African American males in Union County are serving time in one of the federal prisons.
- 94% of Hispanic 20-55 year-old males on the census roles for Union County are also locked up.
Far from their more well-intentioned roots, the enlightened impulses that led Pennsylvanians to pioneer the nation's first prisons in the 1790s have been supplanted by a prison building spree whose impact is destructive and racially disparate.
- This study was jointly authored by Barry Holman, Director of Public Policy, the National Center for Institutional Alternatives, Alan Knowlton Boal, at NCIA, and Jason Ziedenberg, Senior Policy Analyst, the Justice Policy Institute, and will be presented at the Coalition Against the American Correctional Association counter-conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For more information about the authors, see http://www.cjcj.org, and http://www.ncianet.org./ncia.
- For more details of this period in Philadelphia's penal history, see The Prison At Philadelphia Cherry Hill: The Separate System of Penal Discipline: 1829-1913, by Negley K. Teeters and John D. Shearer. Columbia University Press, 1957.
- Data based on Justice Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics Data Please see, "Debt to Society" MotherJones.com, July 11, 2001. (http://www.motherjones.com/prisons).
- Schiraldi, Vincent, Holman, Barry and Beatty, Philip. Poor Prescription: The Costs of Imprisoning Drug Offenders in the Untied States. Washington, D.C.: The Justice Policy Institute, 2000.
- Prison population data were obtained from the Office of Research and Evaluation of the United States Bureau of Prisons. These counts are from April, 2001. There are three federal prisons within Union County: Allenwood Low FCI, Allenwood Medium FCI, and Allenwood USP. The population data for Union County were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File, Matrices PL1, PL2, Pl3, and PL4. Available on the internet at http://www.census.gov . Because federal inmates may be from anywhere in the country we used national statistics to calculate the number of Hispanic/Latino prisoners who are categorized as white. Nationally, 91.2% of Hispanics report their race as white when choosing between the categories used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (White, Black, Other). 5.5% of Hispanics choose black and 3.3% choose other. For an explanation of how the prison authorities miscount prisoners based on race and ethnicity see Masking The Divide: How Officially Reported Prison Statistics Distort the Racial and Ethnic Realities of Prison Growth at http://www.ncianet.org/ncia/mask.html
The Justice Policy Institute is a project of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice