Incarceration Rates Of African American Men Criminology Essay

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The disproportionately high incarceration rates of African American Males will have a monumental social impact that needs to be explored and addressed. The reason being that each year, there is a steep rise in the number of African Americans incarcerated in prisons. According to research it is projected that if the current rate continues, there will be one black male in three being incarcerated. This portrays a very serious problem that needs a more in-depth focus on the major factors contributing to this form of vice. Institutionalized racism depicts a scenario where a certain type of race is favored or gets better amenities than the rest. It is a form of racism that entails public policies or regulations that make the whites superior to others. The problems of institutionalized racism range from poor health facilities, minimal wages, inadequate social amenities and mass stereotyping (Mauer & King, 2007). In lieu of this, African Americans are deemed as criminals such that the law enforcers are always keen to arrest them. It is shocking to realize that some African Americans go to prison for crimes they did not participate in, simply because a white man was also involved. This paper tries to investigate the truth behind the constant incarceration of the African American males and if there any form of institutionalized racism exists.


The prisons are filled with an unequal racial composition with the African Americans being the highest in number. This is due to the fact that the African Americans in terms of statistics are much higher in comparison to there male counterparts who are of white and Hispanic origins. They account for almost a million jailbirds out of a possible total of 2million. This trend has existed since the 1970s but has increased by 500% over the years. The national rate of incarceration show that whites are least implicated any form of crime. For instance, the rate of white is 412 per 100,000 citizens, for Hispanics is 742 per 100,000 citizens but African Americans account for 2,290 per 100,000 citizens. Most of the African Americans incarcerated emanate from disadvantaged communities like the Brooklyn blocks. Moreover, the problem is aggravated by the unequal geographical distribution of different races. There are some neighborhoods where neither the whites nor African Americans can mingle, thus making racial segmentation feasible (Pew, 2009). The numbers according to studies are astonishing as it implies that in the current generation young boys, they stand a very strong chance of ending up in prison at some point in there lives. This is a perfect portrayal of a case where the problems of inequality and other social problems are not being well addressed because at the same time the African Americans have produced some of best success stories through the degree of excellence achieved.

Data for selected cities

The incarcerations also differ because of the geographic position of the offender. In lieu of this, the African American incarceration rates are very high in South Dakota and lowest in Hawaii. In Washington, males are highly prevalent on crimes and account for 60% of all prisoners. However, the African Americans account for 40% of this while Hawaii is able to maintain the low rate due to expensive lifestyle in the region. It is shocking to realize that the African American incarcerations are higher even in white based populations like Oklahoma or Columbia (Mauer & King, 2007). The rates are higher in African American neighborhoods like South Dakota, Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, Wisconsin and New Jersey among others. On the other hand, they are lowest in white populated regions like Hawaii, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Columbia to mention but a few. A keen evaluation on the ratio of white-to-black incarceration rates by states is proof of the regional disparities.

Prison population and race composition

The American prisons harbor almost 2, 297, 4000 inmates in a bid to punish the wrong doers and bring about correctional control. The prison population has quadrupled since two decades ago through the 'war on drugs' policies. The highest states in terms of prisoner population are Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma while the least are Maine, Minnesota and New Hampshire. The males make up approximately 90% of the population with African Americans accounting for nearly 40% of this proportion. The African Americans have the highest rate that is nearly double the Hispanics and six fold that of whites. This is quite distressing because the Blacks only make up for 12% of the American population yet they account for the highest population in the prisons. This trend has been escalated by the advent of the juvenile system that tries the youth.

3.0 Causes

There are many reasons that account for the increased trend in incarceration of the African Americans. It is important to not that these community is already in a disadvantaged position thus much susceptible to delve into crime.

3.1 Poor education

Poor education is very prevalent in African American men especially in the urban areas where the rate of high school dropout is quite high. Most African Americans come from poor families thus unable to pay for good education and are sometimes forced to abandon school to search for jobs (Prashad, 2003). This has brought about a large pool of unskilled and poorly educated young black men who are much behind their peers in the mainstream as compared to t he Hispanics and the whites. This is also rampant in the inner cities which harbor large populations African Americans like South Dakota. Poor education base or lack of education makes them unattractive in the job market which leads them to crime. Poor education combined with a history of incarceration makes the young black men a poor prospect for any employee (Eckhlom, 2006).

3.2 'War on drugs' and similar legislations

Drugs have always been traced to racial minorities in the United States. Back in the early 1900s, the blacks were referred to as Negroes and cocaine was outlawed because it was believed that they became superhuman. They would become violent and go on a violent rampage to rape white women. There is no evidence about these allegations but videos dated back then show police lynching the African Americans. This policy destroys the African America community because 25% of their youth are in prison. 66% of the African American high school male students are predicted to die, disabled or incarcerated before they reach the age of thirteen. Racism is further portrayed by the law itself which is focusing on trying to solve crimes committed by the African Americans (McWhorter, 2011). The incarceration institutes have been slowly transformed into an African American community due to the high number in population of the same group. The prosecution process is harsh on the African Americans and the judicial system offers higher penalties for this minority group than for Whites. The rehabilitation of these men does not occur in the incarceration centers as most of them get to interact with hard core criminals and at the end, the people come back to the society with a criminal mindset instead of a reformed citizen.

3.3 Poverty

As aforementioned, the African American community is disadvantaged due to inequalities in economic set-up. Blacks are paid less than Whites even if they carry out the same job and it is also hard for the former to get high ranking positions. Most families especially in the inner cities live in misery because they cannot afford the necessities of life. Children are intimidated into a life of selling drugs to carter for their families while others drop out of school due to lack of school fees. The juvenile system tries a greater proportion of African American youths than any other race (Walker, 2006). Parents on the other hand become criminals to fend for their families because their children depend on them. These two cases represent a scenario where a family is bound to lose its members if the law enforcers catch up to them. Approximately 305 of the African American families live in abject poverty while very few own their own homes. In addition, soliciting for white collar jobs is hard and if they are lucky to get then they earn only 65% of the wages paid to their White counterparts Thus, the life of poverty may be a major contributor to delving into crimes and the subsequent high trends in incarceration.

3.4 Substance abuse

African Americans are known to have heavy binging especially through the use of alcohol and other hard drugs. The Whites are also implicated in reports on heavy drinking but the rates are higher in the Blacks. Research has shown that African American youths are normally implicated in drug dealing but they consume less than other races. The key disparity is that the African American youth start at early age of twelve and end up being persistent on the few drugs they experiment. African Americans may delve into substance abuse to forget the misery that surrounds them. Substance use is known to cause emotional imbalances that may lead people to immoral or violent behavior. Such actions may propel the law enforcers to take action depending on the magnitude of the situation thus being incarcerated.

3.5 Single parent homes

The contemporary African American family has been shaped by racism and its consequences. This is mainly because of the economic situation that they have been succumbed to. 56% of the children in this community were born out of wedlock and the biological parents disowned the mothers (Western, 2007). In addition, only 36% of the legitimate children live in normal nuclear set up. 54% of all families in the African American community are headed by women who may have difficulties in shaping the lives of the children. Some children become delinquents as they lack the guidance of their fathers and delve into crime to help their straining mothers. Single parenthood is a problem because there are little resources available to the family. Parents strain to carter for their children's needs and may enter the life of crime to sustain their families. Such conditions make them susceptible to being incarcerated and losing their children forever.

4.0 Consequences

4.1 Effects on the individual

A criminal record is a major inhibitor to success in any part of the world. It sparks off especially if the community that a criminal hails from is racially biased .This is the case with African Americans who lose the direction of life after being incarcerated. First off, the males leave their families and go to prison. Before the final verdict has been imposed, they have to pay a lot of legal fees to hire a lawyer to defend them. This is an additional strain to the financial stability of the family that may sink deeper into poverty. Life as an ex-convict is not easy as most amenities provides to a normal citizen no longer accrue to the individual. These former inmates will end up not getting the normal assistance that most people are entitled to like the housing plan others include the loans given for college students. Some of the other disadvantages encountered by these ex-convicts include finding it very hard to get employed due to the criminal background as most organizations end up doing a background check on its employees and tend to shy away from those with a criminal background. This results in a permanent dismissal in jobs of certain cadres due to the perceived risk of threat or danger. To make matters worse some of the states end up reserving the rights for voting for individuals who are convicted criminals even after the completion of the allocated sentences (Orfield etal., 2004).

4.2 Effect on the community

Incarceration heavily deters the progress of the community because of its negative effects. The children are left in fatherless homes with no father figure to guide their actions. The women who are left behind become frustrated because they can neither control the children nor provide the necessities (Weisman, 2004). Some women also delve into crime like drug dealing, robbery, or prostitution that also lands them to jail or death bed eventually. Children also become delinquents who may end up in the juvenile correctional institutions or under foster homes for losing their parents. The community suffers because its manpower is lost in incarceration. The community will lag behind in terms of development because of high rates of crime that destroy lives and property. In addition there will be more cases of stereotyping because the community achieves a bad reputation. The community also lives in fear because of being in the limelight of the law enforcers and living with criminals that may hurt their families one day.

4.3 Effect on societal services

Incarceration leads to lose of labor and may reduce the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to low levels of production. The standard of living may also deteriorate due to high unemployment rates of the ex-convicts. If the trends are too high, it means that the country will have a large proportion of dependents. The social security buffer will need to be increased to suffice this large proportion (Pew, 2009). This will weigh heavily on the taxpayers as they have to dig deeper into their pockets to fund this government project. Again, the prisons need to be expanded because of the high trends so the taxpayers will need to pay for this expansion and also the operational expenses of the prisons.

5.0 Solutions

The solutions to this problem will emanate from the fact that racism must be stopped in all ways possible. This rate of incarcerated African American is highly overwhelming and the government in liaison with the community should implement proper measure to curb it.

5.1 Evaluation of current systems in place

The sentencing policy should be recalibrated because it is the source of the high rates of incarceration. All policies should emulate the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Delaware because of revisiting and implementing mandatory minimum sentencing policies. Efforts should be made to amend all clauses that bring about racial discrimination. There also needs to be race-neutral policies in place to avoid highly skewed policing that negatively impacts on the minority groups (Mauer & King, 2007). The policies implemented should also enforce ways of resource allocation to prevent great income disparities. Racism has contributed to low income levels acquired by the men of color thus succumbing them to crime. All the people in the country should be treated as equals since they are all citizens and should be entitle d to all the amenities in a similar proportion.

5.2 Job training programs

The high rates of incarceration are morbid causes of high unemployment rates mostly caused by a mismatch of skills and job requirements. In order to avoid structural unemployment, it is important to introduce job training programs in the prisons to equip the convicts with necessary skills (Weisman, 2006) These acquired skills will help them to start their own business when they get out of prison or find employment. These job training programs should apply to all prisoners not only those in the White community and all cadres of job should be introduced to benefit the convicts.

6.0 Conclusion

As a conclusion, the disproportionately high numbers of blacks incarcerated is a clear example of institutionalized racism. This is because of the options availed to them in terms of income, job opportunities, social amenities like health and education and the stereotype behavior of the Whites. The rates are alarming and need to be addressed before they blow out of recoverable proportions. The future generations of black men will still be faced with the prospect of Incarceration if the policy recommendations are not applied. The government must raise awareness on the importance of American citizens living together in harmony without racial segregation.