Stacy M. Brown, Amsterdam News, September 13, 2022
While Black Americans remain vastly overrepresented in the prison population, a new report found that the disparity widens among those serving lengthy sentences.
The Sentencing Project found that in 2019, Black Americans represented 14% of the total U.S. population, 33% of the total prison population, and 46% of the prison population who had already served at least ten years.
In its extensive research, the organization discovered that the over-representation of people of color magnifies further among those serving even longer sentences in some jurisdictions.
For example, three-quarters of Californians serving over 15 years in prison are people of color—69% are Black or Latinx.
In Washington, DC, 96% of those serving 15 years or longer sentences in 2020 were Black men.
In Texas, Black people represented 34% of the total prison population in 2020, but 45% of people with 25 or more years served in 2021.
“The over-representation of Black Americans among the prison population serving lengthy sentences stems in part from racial disparities in serious criminal offending,” Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a senior research analyst at The Sentencing Project and co-author of the new report, told the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Let It Be Known live morning news broadcast.
Tackling this problem requires significantly ramping up crime preventative interventions in areas with concentrated urban poverty, Ghandnoosh stated.
She added that it’s no small feat given that the public’s association of crime with people of color lends support for more punitive approaches to public safety.
“Biased criminal justice policies and practices exacerbate the over-representation of Black Americans among those serving lengthy prison terms,” Ghandnoosh asserted.
The report, headlined “How Many People are Spending Over a Decade in Prison,” revealed that more than 260,000 people in U.S. prisons had already been incarcerated for at least ten years in 2019, comprising 19% of the prison population.
Further, nearly three times as many people – over 770,000 – were serving sentences of 10 years or longer.
Researchers said the figures represented a dramatic growth from 2000 when mass incarceration was already well underway.