In a recent report entitled, One in100: Behind Bars in America 2008, Pew Charitable Trusts highlights the growth in America’s prison population. For the first time in American society, more than one in every 100 adults finds themselves incarcerated. The U.S. inmate population is higher than that of all the 26 largest European nations combined. In fact, the U.S. has more of its citizens incarcerated than any other country in the world, including China and Russia.
When disagregating the data by ethnicity and gender, the figures are even more startling. For example, 1 of 15 African American males, 18 years or older, are incarcerated compared to 1 of 106 white males. Further, one of 9 African American males, between the ages of 20 to 34, find themselves in prison or jail.
Males are more likely to be incarcerated than their female counterparts (10 times more likely). However, it is important to note that the women inmate population is rapidly increasing. While the inmate rate is higher for African American and white males, one of 100 African American females, ages 35 to 39, are behind bars.
Based on previous reports produced by organizations, such as the Children’s Defense Fund, it is clear that the prison industry is a major public policy concern. It has major implications, particularly from an economic standpoint. With this in mind, how can this nation protect public safety while reducing the growth of the prison population? How can we revitalize our communities? What is the role of the Black academic and scholar?
Like I always, I look forward to having intimate dialogue and exchange on this very important topic.
James L. Moore III, Ph.D. is the director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male at The Ohio State University.