Yesterday, we honored the federal holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. What would the great civil rights leader think about the massive incarceration rate of Black Americans in 2015. From 1980 to now, the United State prison population increased approximately from 500,000 to 2.3 million inmates. The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates, but only 5 percent of the world’s population. African Americans are approximately one million of the 2.3 million inmates in the United States. African Americans are imprisoned at almost six times the rate of the white population.
Do these statistics mean that African Americans are more inclined to commit crimes than White Americans? The answer is no, the statistics have shown the continuing prejudicial nature of our system of justice. Five times as many Whites use drugs as African Americans, but African Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses at ten times the rate of White Americans. African Americans make up approximately 12% of the drug population in the United States, but almost 40% of the drug arrests, despite the much higher use of drugs by White Americans. The Sentencing Project has reported that African Americans are incarcerated almost the same amount of time for a drug offense ( 58.7 months) as White Americans are imprisoned for a violent crime ( 61.7 months).
There are many contributing factors to our high incarceration rate and the high imprisonment rate of African Americans. The are various factors that have contributed to the social and economic disparities for African Americans in the United States, but we cannot ignore the impact of racial prejudice–contributing to the massive incarceration rate of Black Americans.
Fifty one years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a crowd of 250,000 on the National Mall about the “shameful condition” of race relations in the United States. He declared, “I have a dream, my four little girls will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In 2015, the American system of justice does not reflect Dr. King’s dream.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com