Reports Show Less African-American Women Incarcerated

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African-American women are now less likely to go to prison than in 2000 but are still three times more likely to be sentenced to jail time than Caucasian counterparts according to a report released by The Sentencing Project.

The report, “The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women’s Incarceration”, was released in February. It is based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

According to “Female Prison Population Changes Drastically as Percentage of Blacks Drop Sharply”, Report Finds” written for the Huff Post Crime Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project attributes the dramatic changes to effects in both the African-American and Caucasian community.

The study found less African American women arrested and sentenced to jail time and more imprisonment for Caucasian women.

The study stated, “From 2000 to 2009 the rate of incarceration in state and federal prisons declined 9.8% for black men and 30.7% for black women. […] In 2000 black women were incarcerated in state and federal prisons at six times the rate of white women. By 2009, that ratio had declined by 53%, to 2.8:1”.

In simpler terms, African-American women are now about 2.8 times more likely to go to prison than Caucasian Women rather than six times in 2000.

In “Incarceration Rates for Blacks Have Fallen Sharply, Report Shows” written by Erica Goode for The New York Times Marc Mauer stated the changes were extraordinarily unusual.

“It certainly marks a shift from what we’ve seen for several decades now. […] Normally, these things do not change very dramatically over a one-decade period,” Mauer stated.

The article also stated that blacks both male and female account for 38 percent of inmates in federal and state while whites account for 34 percent.

In The New York Times article Alfred Blumstein, an expert on the criminal justice system at Carnegie Mellon University, attributed the lessening of African-American incarceration to an “exodus” from prison of African-Americans who were convicted of drug crimes. Significant portions of African-American women are incarcerated for drug-related activity.

Additionally according to the study, African American women are imprisoned for the following offenses: 33 percent for violent based offenses, 25 percent for drug crimes, and the remaining 42 percent are incarcerated for property and public order crimes.

Although no exact reason has been given for the lessening of African-American Women being sentenced to prison time, it is a trend as unusual as it may be.

Tatiana M. Brown is a native of Washington, D.C. who is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Follow her @TatianaMBrown or check out her website, or contact her at

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