More Americans were caught up in the criminal justice system in 2007 than any other period in U.S. history, and nobody knows that better than African Americans.
That’s because while the U.S. correctional population – those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole – totaled a shocking 7.3 million people (one in 31 adults), the number of Blacks behind bars was even more staggering, according to a new study by the Pew Center on the States, which compiled its report from Justice Department and Census Bureau statistics.
"Black adults are four times as likely as Whites and nearly 2.5 times as likely as Hispanics to be under correctional control. One in 11 Black adults – 9.2 percent – was under correctional supervision at year-end 2007," the report said. "And although the number of female offenders continues to grow, men of all races are under correctional control at a rate five times that of women."
If you live in the South, you are also far more likely to be among the incarcerated. And Georgia is King of the South when it comes to locking up folks, jailing one in 13 adults in the state’s correctional system. If you’re determined to steer clear of prison, New Hampshire – where one in 88 adults was in the state’s correctional system.
"State policy choices are responsible for creating this mess and state policy choices can get us out," said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project for the Pew Center on the States. "There are two things, and two things only that determine the size and cost of the prison system."
Just 25 years earlier, 22 million adults – one in 77 adults – were either incarcerated or on parole or probation nationwide, according to Pew. Even though the United States has a mere 5 percent of the world’s population, it has 25 percent of the people in prison.