I need your help. I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 17 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

But now, more than ever, we need your help to put data & compassion into the conversation.

Thank you.
—Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate

Racial justice

From arrest to sentencing, racial and ethnic disparities are a defining characteristic of our criminal justice system. Not only does racial bias pervade the justice process; people of color also face disproportionately high rates of poverty, meaning they suffer from the justice system's unequal treatment of poor people. Black Americans, in particular, are disproportionately likely to be incarcerated and to receive the harshest sentences, including death sentences.

Below is some of our key research on racial disparities in the criminal justice system:

 

Reports

report thumbnailArrest, Release, Repeat: How police and jails are misused to respond to social problems

At least 4.9 million people go to county and city jails each year, our national analysis shows. We find that people who go to jail - particularly those who go more than once a year - are disproportionately likely to be Black.

report thumbnail Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity

Using U.S. Census data, we chart racial disparities in incarceration in every state. Our report includes over 200 state graphics.

report thumbnailPrisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned

Our first-of-its-kind report breaks down the pre-incarceration incomes of people in prison by race and gender. We find that even before their incarceration, people in prison are much poorer than Americans of similar ages.

report thumbnailDetaining the Poor: How money bail perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time

We find that affording money bail is impossible for many defendants because the typical money bail amount represents — depending on race and gender of the defendant — between 8 and 13 months of income.

report thumbnailThe Racial Geography of Mass Incarceration

The prison construction boom was largely a rural prison construction boom. In this report, we measure one of the downstream results: the degree to which, in each state, mass incarceration has created jobs for white people while disproportionately locking up people of color.

report thumbnailWhat "Stop-and-Frisk" Really Means: Discrimination & Use of Force

Our analysis of NYPD data on stop-and-frisk shows that the police used physical force in almost a quarter of stops — and that their use of force is also racially discriminatory.

report thumbnailReaching too far, coming up short: How sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark

In multiple states, increasing drug sentences in school zones has worsened racial disparities in state prisons by effectively creating higher penalties in urban areas.


Briefings


issue thumbnailCollateral consequences

Our reports on the "collateral consequences" of punishment (such as long-lasting barriers to employment) often include race breakdowns, revealing how incarceration has lasting effects for Black and brown communities.

issue thumbnailPoverty and debt

By focusing law enforcement on low-level offenses and subjecting criminal defendants to money bail and other fees, our country punishes people for being poor. This unequal treatment hits people of color the hardest.

issue thumbnailDrug policy

How much of mass incarceration is a result of policies about drugs? We measure the impact of the decades-long drug war and highlight specific policy failures.



Research Library

Didn't find what you were looking for? We also curate a database of virtually all the empirical criminal justice research available online. See the section of our Research Library on race and ethnicity.



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