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New analysis reveals that the proportion of Black prisoners increased as pandemic reduced prison populations.


The dynamics of the US prison population. athe total number of people imprisoned in the USA from January 2013 to January 2022. B, the overall percentage of black prisoners, as reported by state corrections departments. According to the US Census data, blacks account for 13.4% of the total population. This plot includes data from 49 states and the District of Columbia—data from Michigan is excluded because the state reports only “white” and “non-white” as racial categories. credit: nature (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-05980-2

The prison population in the United States fell during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the proportion of black prisoners rose, according to a new analysis of prison data published April 19 in the journal. nature.

Researchers from Yale and Northeastern Universities and the Santa Fe Institute found higher percentages of black prisoners by mid-2020 in nearly all states, temporarily reversing a decades-long decline in the percentage of blacks in the national prison population. .

While several factors contributed to the increase in the percentage of black prisoners during the height of the pandemic, the researchers argue that the disparity in sentences between black and white prisoners may have played a major role. Because court closures at the height of the pandemic slowed the admission of individuals into the prison system, the composition of the prison population has been strongly influenced by differences in sentence lengths by race.

“And disparities in judgments are something society can do something about,” said co-author Brandon Ogbono, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the Yale School of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and computational biologist.

By the end of spring 2020, the US prison population had fallen by 200,000 people from pre-pandemic levels. Ogbono said this 17 percent drop in the prison population between March 2020 and July 2021 was “the largest prisoner separation in American history.” Courts were closed and the number of new admissions to prisons decreased. Many countries have established early release guidelines to reduce the prison population.

Before the pandemic, the percentage of black prisoners in US prisons had fallen to 38.9 percent, the lowest level in decades, as more whites without a college education were incarcerated. However, at the height of the pandemic, from March and November of 2020, the proportion of black prisoners increased by about a full percentage point.

This rise in the proportion of blacks in prisons was temporary in most states and approached pre-pandemic rates in early 2021.

The pandemic incarceration experience holds lessons for society as a whole, said co-author Elizabeth Hinton, FAS Professor of History and African American Studies and Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

“We think the pandemic has been a stress test for the criminal legal system. When you put a system like this under stress, basic disparities can be magnified,” Hinton said.

“In response to these findings, we believe society has a moral obligation to act to reduce these disparities, including reforming judgmental practices.”

Brennan Klein of Northeastern University and Samuel Scarpino of the Santa Fe Institute are corresponding authors.

more information:
Brennan Kline, COVID-19 has magnified racial disparities in the American criminal law system, nature (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-05980-2. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05980-2

Provided by Yale University

the quote: As the pandemic prison population decreases, so does the proportion of black prisoners, according to a new analysis (2023, April 19) Retrieved April 19, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-pandemic-prison-populations-fell -proportion .programming language

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