In New York, a statewide advocate is calling for reform after a State Inspector General report found that Black and Hispanic individuals are more likely to face disciplinary action than others incarcerated.
The Inspector General report found that there are vastly disproportionate discipline citations for Black and brown prisoners when compared to the white population. Black and Hispanic incarcerated individuals are 38% and 29% more likely to be issued a misbehavior report.
Racism is an integral pillar to the prison system. The proportion of people of color who are incarcerated in the US compared with the general population is stark. The US itself incarcerates almost 2 million individuals which is more than any other country in the world. Black and Hispanic individuals are incarcerated at rates five and three times higher than white residents. One in every 81 Black adults in the US is in prison. Black individuals make up 13% of the population, but account for 42% of those sentenced to death. Children are affected as well – many states continue to sentence juveniles to life imprisonment without parole. This practice impacts children of color more. In March of 2022, 93% of chidren who receive life imprisonment without parole are Black in Louisiana, 90% are Black in Michigon, and 89% are Black in Mississippi. The median term for resetencing is 28 years for white youth but 40 years for Black youth. These disparities in incarceration create the groundwork for barriers to participation in American society. Being imprisoned can prevent individuals from voting, employment, and getting access to housing. Societal consequences to this high Black incarceration rate is heavily apparent: high levels of imprisonment bring crime, poverty, and neighborhood deterioration through decreased political power.
The disparities in the US prison system are built in this way for a reason. A shadow report by ACLU and The Sentencing Project presented to the UN says the following, “ For instance, it is now clear that the so-called “War on Drugs” which greatly accelerated America’s mass incarceration build-up starting in the 1970’s was initiated as a deliberate effort by President Richard Nixon and his administration to disrupt, vilify and oppress communities of color for political gain and control, rather than a legal initiative primarily concerned about improving public safety.”
To address these disparities, it’s necessary for the US to acknowledge that reform is necessary for human rights to be upheld. In every step of the prison system, from arrest to sentencing, there are racial disparities that affect Black individuals and other people of color disproportionately.