The Color of Justice:  Racial and Ethnic Disparities in State Prisons, Ashley Nellis, The Sentencing Project, June 14, 2016

This report documents the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics, providing racial and ethnic composition as well as rates of disparity for each state.6) This systematic look reveals the following:

Key Findings

  • African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1.
  • In twelve states, more than half of the prison population is black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Maryland, whose prison population is 72% African American, tops the nation.
  • In eleven states, at least 1 in 20 adult black males is in prison.
  • In Oklahoma, the state with the highest overall black incarceration rate, 1 in 15 black males ages 18 and older is in prison.
  • States exhibit substantial variation in the range of racial disparity, from a black/white ratio of 12.2:1 in New Jersey to 2.4:1 in Hawaii.
  • Latinos are imprisoned at a rate that is 1.4 times the rate of whites. Hispanic/white ethnic disparities are particularly high in states such as Massachusetts (4.3:1), Connecticut (3.9:1), Pennsylvania (3.3:1), and New York (3.1:1).