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New Report Finds 1 in 3 Young Black Men Under Correctional Supervision


December 1995

A new report by the Washington-based Sentencing Project finds that almost one in three black men in their twenties is in prison, jail, on parole, or under some other form of correctional supervision (Marc Mauer and Tracy Huling, Young Black Americans and the Criminal Justice System: Five Years Later, The Sentencing Project, October 1995).

The report updates data the organization released in 1990 showing that 23% of black men ages 20-29 were in prison, jail, on parole or probation. The new report finds that number has jumped to 32.2%. The cost of keeping these men under supervision costs $6 billion every year.

The report finds that increasingly harsh drug policies and sentences are the most significant factor responsible for this increase. "While the debate will continue on the degree to which the criminal justice system overall contributes to racial disparities, there is increasing evidence that the set of policies and practices contained within the phrase 'war on drugs' has been an unmitigated disaster for young blacks and other minorities," the report says.

Other topics addressed in the report are media representations of young black males as criminals, economic opportunity as a motivation for crime, the structure of the drug distribution trade, and the effect of massive imprisonment rates on black communities.

Shockingly, in 1992, 89.7% of all those in state prison on drug possession charges were black or Hispanic.

The report also finds that the group with the greatest increase in correctional supervision is black women. Between 1989 and 1991, the rate of correctional supervision for black women rose 78%.

The authors of the report recommend a shift in the U.S. drug policy from an emphasis on the "war on drugs" to a concentration on drug treatment and a reevaluation of mandatory sentencing provisions.

[To obtain a copy of this report, contact The Sentencing Project at 918 F Street, NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC 20004, 202-628-0871. The report costs $8.00.]