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Half of Young Black Men in Nation's Capital In or Being Pursued by Criminal Justice System


September-October 1997

Nearly fifty percent of black males between the ages of 18-35 in the District of Columbia are under Criminal Justice supervision according to a study by the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) (Eric R. Lotke, "Hobbling a Generation," National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, August 1997; Cheryl Thompson, "Washington D.C., Young Blacks Entangled in Legal System," Washington Post, August 26, 1997, p. B1).

In 1990, the NCIA discovered that 42% of black males between the ages of 18-35 in Washington, D.C. were either in prison or jail, probation or parole, out on bond or being sought on an arrest warrant. Today that percentage has reached 50%. At the beginning of 1997, 10% of black males living in the District of Columbia ages 18-35 were incarcerated, while another 21% were on probation or parole.

Nationwide, one in three young African-American men are incarcerated, or on probation or parole, according to the Sentencing Project (See "New Report Finds 1 in 3 Young Black Men Under Correctional Supervision," NewsBriefs, December 1995). From 1980 to 1995, the African-American prison population grew from 146,900 to 541,900, while the number on probation and parole grew from 410,000 to 1,395,000. During this time, the rates of violent crimes committed by black males remained fairly stable.

According to the NCIAreport, the increase of black men under criminal justice supervision is primarily related to the decision to use law enforcement to manage social problems such as drug abuse and juvenile delinquency. The report said that "29 percent of the people in D.C. prisons are incarcerated for drug charges, often relating to their own addictions." In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Eric Lotke, author of the report, said, "Expanded drug treatment facilities, targeted interventions and development of alternative sanctions would make our streets safer and reduce the number of young black men in the system by the end of next year" (Eric Lotke, "How to Change The Statistics," Washington Post, September 10, 1997).

NCIA - 3125 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22035, Tel: (703) 684-0373.

Sentencing Project - 918 F Street, NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC 20004, Tel: (202) 628-0871.