May 5, 2008

IV. Race and the Incarceration of Drug Offenders

The punitive anti-drug policies of the last 20 years bear heavy responsibility for the extremely high and disproportionate representation of black Americans in the US prison population.[41]

Drug Offenses and Black Incarceration

Drug offenses have played a greater role in black incarceration than white:

·38.2 percent of all blacks entering prison in 2003 with new sentences had been convicted of drug offenses, compared to 25.4 percent of whites. (Table 1).

  • Between 1990 and 2000, drug offenses accounted for 27 percent of the total increase in black inmates in state prison and only 15 percent of the increase in white inmates.[42]
  • Among blacks currently serving state prison sentences, 22.9 percent were convicted of drug offenses; among whites, 14.8 percent.[43]

In some individual states, the impact of drug policies on black incarceration has been far greater: for example, in Illinois, the number of black admissions for drug offenses grew six-fold between 1990 and 2000, while the number of whites admitted for drug offenses remained relatively stable.[44]

Table 1: Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses as a Percentage of All Admissions, by Race and Gender, 2003

State

White

White

White

Black

Black

Black

Male

Female

All

Male

Female

All

Alabama

29.5%

40.7%

31.2%

32.7%

29.8%

32.4%

California

28.2%

35.1%

29.2%

32.9%

32.1%

32.8%

Colorado

20.9%

38.9%

23.3%

35.7%

46.5%

37.3%

Florida

18.4%

37.1%

20.5%

39.0%

36.8%

38.8%

Georgia

27.7%

40.5%

29.5%

34.8%

26.6%

34.0%

Hawaii

12.0%

21.7%

13.6%

31.1%

33.3%

31.4%

Illinois

24.2%

32.3%

25.3%

48.2%

42.4%

47.5%

Iowa

32.6%

36.1%

32.9%

22.9%

10.5%

21.4%

Kentucky

28.5%

43.5%

30.8%

39.3%

38.6%

39.2%

Louisiana

26.6%

38.8%

28.1%

44.2%

39.9%

43.9%

Maryland

22.5%

26.0%

22.8%

50.7%

54.2%

50.9%

Michigan

10.6%

18.3%

11.2%

22.9%

17.1%

22.5%

Minnesota

33.8%

48.9%

35.3%

28.2%

30.4%

28.3%

Mississippi

34.5%

39.2%

35.3%

36.3%

36.4%

36.3%

Missouri

29.4%

43.2%

31.1%

38.2%

27.6%

37.5%

Nebraska

30.1%

38.9%

31.1%

17.2%

32.6%

18.9%

Nevada

14.3%

29.2%

16.2%

19.2%

15.7%

18.8%

New Hampshire

19.0%

30.6%

19.9%

24.2%

0.0%

21.1%

New Jersey

30.2%

49.4%

32.2%

55.1%

53.8%

55.0%

New York

23.9%

43.0%

25.9%

43.9%

54.3%

44.6%

North Carolina

12.7%

24.2%

14.4%

27.3%

30.2%

27.6%

North Dakota

39.5%

62.9%

42.3%

15.6%

20.0%

16.2%

Oklahoma

41.8%

59.1%

44.5%

42.3%

52.5%

43.6%

Oregon

13.7%

25.9%

14.8%

11.6%

26.3%

13.4%

Pennsylvania

24.7%

31.0%

25.2%

43.6%

31.7%

43.1%

South Carolina

16.3%

18.5%

16.7%

33.0%

20.8%

31.8%

South Dakota

30.1%

33.3%

30.6%

32.6%

45.5%

35.1%

Tennessee

16.8%

28.1%

18.8%

30.6%

29.2%

30.5%

Texas

23.5%

38.8%

25.7%

38.8%

38.7%

38.8%

Utah

36.8%

52.5%

38.9%

35.1%

70.0%

38.0%

Virginia

13.7%

21.6%

14.9%

31.8%

35.4%

32.2%

Washington

30.0%

44.8%

31.9%

43.1%

55.5%

44.5%

West Virginia

9.2%

15.8%

10.1%

31.8%

31.8%

31.8%

Wisconsin

19.1%

25.7%

19.7%

44.3%

53.3%

44.9%

Total*

23.9%

35.9%

25.4%

38.3%

36.7%

38.2%

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

* Total calculated on basis of 34 reporting states.

Racial Composition of Drug Offender Admissions

Among the 34 states reporting new admissions to the National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) in 2003, there were a total of 111,247 adult men and women who entered state prison that year convicted of drug offenses-possession, sales, manufacturing, or other drug related offenses. The new drug offender prison admissions included 59,535 black men and women (53.5 percent of the total) and 37,003 white men and women (33.3 percent of the total). (See Table 2 for the number of prison admissions for drug offenders by race in each of the 34 states, and Figure 2 for the racial composition of drug offender admissions).[45]

Racial Disparities in Rates of Admission

Because the proportion of blacks and whites in state populations varies considerably, rates of admission for drug offenses relative to the black and white population of each state present a clearer picture of the racial impact of drug law enforcement than the racial composition of admissions. According to our analysis of the 2003 admissions, as shown in Figure 3, the total rate of prison admission for blacks in the 34 reporting states[46] was 256.2 per 100,000 adult black residents.[47] For whites, the rate was 25.3 per 100,000 adults. The black rate of admission has grown much faster than the white rate: between 1986 and 2003 the rate of admission to prison for drug offenses for blacks quintupled; the white rate did not quite triple.[48]

Table 2: Number of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, by Race, 2003

State

White

Black

Other

Total

Alabama

1,261

1,463

6

2,730

California

5,341

4,777

7,524

17,642

Colorado

634

380

490

1,504

Florida

3,009

5,740

216

8,965

Georgia

1,502

3,005

30

4,537

Hawaii

39

16

177

232

Illinois

1,982

8,052

723

10,757

Iowa

625

98

10

733

Kentucky

1,799

847

9

2,655

Louisiana

616

2,021

12

2,649

Maryland

585

4,200

44

4,829

Michigan

565

1,054

12

1,631

Minnesota

805

305

59

1,169

Mississippi

1,080

1,706

9

2,795

Missouri

1,321

783

9

2,113

Nebraska

432

80

20

532

Nevada

247

131

170

548

New Hampshire

126

8

8

142

New Jersey

1,019

3,600

542

5,161

New York

1,242

3,870

1,395

6,507

North Carolina

1,170

3,419

318

4,907

North Dakota

247

6

44

297

Oklahoma

1,869

725

359

2,953

Oregon

285

21

32

338

Pennsylvania

1,233

1,732

13

2,978

South Carolina

618

2,223

51

2,892

South Dakota

305

20

41

366

Tennessee

804

1,241

72

2,117

Texas

2,646

4,136

2,090

8,872

Utah

653

46

20

719

Virginia

735

2,404

45

3,184

Washington

1,787

665

144

2,596

West Virginia

116

61

1

178

Wisconsin

305

700

14

1,019

Total*

37,003

59,535

14,709

111,247

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

* Total calculated on basis of 34 reporting states.

Fig.2: Racial Composition of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, 2003

-

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

Table 3: Rates of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, by Gender and Race, 2003

(Rates calculated per 100,000 residents of each race and gender)

State

White

White

White

Black

Black

Black

Male

Female

All

Male

Female

All

Alabama

83.5

19.9

50.6

363.6

26.1

177.2

California

43.8

9.2

26.5

515.1

62.5

280.8

Colorado

31.9

8.9

20.4

456.5

117.2

294.8

Florida

44.9

11.2

27.5

628.2

50.7

321.5

Georgia

55.5

12.7

33.9

345.3

21.8

169.9

Hawaii

20.0

7.7

14.2

122.0

25.3

82.5

Illinois

44.2

8.5

26.0

1,227.6

109.4

613.8

Iowa

53.7

6.4

29.3

402.7

28.8

224.3

Kentucky

102.6

26.4

63.1

725.8

88.5

392.3

Louisiana

47.7

9.1

27.8

414.0

27.4

202.9

Maryland

39.7

4.1

21.3

760.5

50.1

370.5

Michigan

16.3

2.1

9.0

218.8

11.0

106.3

Minnesota

40.8

6.1

23.1

412.1

38.5

233.6

Mississippi

132.4

29.0

79.2

477.7

41.1

239.4

Missouri

60.9

11.6

35.4

129.8

14.3

95.4

Nebraska

62.3

10.6

35.9

277.3

60.7

166.2

Nevada

26.6

8.2

17.6

211.5

19.4

115.5

New Hampshire

24.2

3.1

13.3

167.0

0.0

95.2

New Jersey

34.7

6.2

19.9

822.1

59.5

409.4

New York

19.5

3.7

11.3

333.9

24.1

161.8

North Carolina

36.7

12.2

24.2

519.5

50.7

264.2

North Dakota

90.1

19.2

54.4

281.7

91.5

209.2

Oklahoma

143.7

35.9

88.3

684.0

119.5

392.4

Oregon

19.4

3.8

11.4

66.8

24.7

47.5

Pennsylvania

27.6

3.1

14.8

407.7

13.0

193.7

South Carolina

47.3

9.7

28.0

537.2

30.8

260.0

South Dakota

99.5

19.3

58.8

597.6

387.6

526.3

Tennessee

33.8

10.9

22.0

371.9

28.9

184.7

Texas

31.1

8.6

19.7

430.6

51.4

230.2

Utah

70.7

15.2

42.8

468.6

117.7

322.4

Virginia

28.4

6.9

17.4

435.2

49.5

229.4

Washington

74.4

15.6

44.7

719.8

133.5

449.7

West Virginia

14.3

3.3

8.6

245.9

32.4

140.0

Wisconsin

14.4

1.9

8.0

664.8

51.5

340.3

Total*

42.1

9.1

25.3

495.5

44.0

256.2

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

* Total calculated on basis of 34 reporting states.

Fig.3: Rates of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, by Race, 2003

(Rates calculated per 100,000 residents of each race)

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

The state rates for drug offender prison admissions for whites ranged from a low of 8 (Wisconsin) to a high of 88.3 (Oklahoma) per 100,000 white residents. (Table 3). The rates for drug offender admissions for blacks ranged from a low of 47.5 (Oregon) to a high of 613.8 (Illinois) per 100,000 black residents. The five states with the highest black drug offender admission rates were Illinois (613.8), South Dakota (526.3), Washington (449.7), New Jersey (409.4), and Oklahoma (392.4). Table 3 also shows that in every one of the 34 states, blacks were sent to prison for drug offenses at far higher rates than whites in that state.

In Figure 4, we present the ratio of black drug admission rates to white drug admission rates in the 34 states. Overall, blacks were sent to state prison for drug offenses in 2003 at 10.1 times the rate of whites. The disparity between black and white rates of admission was lowest in Missouri, where the black rate was still 2.7 times greater than the white rate. In the state with the highest disparity, Wisconsin, blacks entered prison on drug charges at 42.4 times the rate of whites. The rate of black drug offender admissions was more than 20 times that of whites in Illinois (23.6) and New Jersey (20.6). As shown in Table 4, the 10 states with the worst ratios between the rates at which blacks and whites were sent to prison for drug offenses were: Wisconsin (42.4), Illinois (23.6), New Jersey (20.6), Maryland (17.4), West Virginia (16.3), Colorado (14.4), New York (14.3), Virginia (13.2), Pennsylvania (13.1), and Michigan (11.8).

We analyzed the admissions data to determine whether some states send drug offenders of both races to prison at higher rates than other states, even though the drug admission rates of whites and blacks may be of a considerably different magnitude. As shown in Figure 5, there is a weak correlation between drug admission rates for blacks and for whites in each state.[49]Illinois and New Jersey, for example, have very high rates of black admissions but relatively low rates of white admissions. Conversely, Alabama and Mississippi have relatively high rates of white admissions and relatively low rates of black admissions. Oklahoma, in contrast, sends both whites and blacks to prison for drug offenses at relatively high rates.

Fig.4: Ratio of Black:White Rates of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, 2003

(Rates calculated per 100,000 residents of each race)

-

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

Table 4: Ranking of States by Ratio of Black:White Prison Admission Rates for Drug Offenses, 2003

(Rates calculated per 100,000 residents of each race)

State

Black:White Rate Ratios

Wisconsin

42.4

Illinois

23.6

New Jersey

20.6

Maryland

17.4

West Virginia

16.3

Colorado

14.4

New York

14.3

Virginia

13.2

Pennsylvania

13.1

Michigan

11.8

Florida

11.7

Texas

11.7

North Carolina

10.9

California

10.6

Minnesota

10.1

Washington

10.1

South Carolina

9.3

South Dakota

9.0

Tennessee

8.4

Iowa

7.7

Utah

7.5

Louisiana

7.3

New Hampshire

7.1

Nevada

6.6

Kentucky

6.2

Hawaii

5.8

Georgia

5.0

Nebraska

4.6

Oklahoma

4.4

Oregon

4.1

North Dakota

3.8

Alabama

3.5

Mississippi

3.0

Missouri

2.7

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

Fig.5: Correlation of White and Black Rates of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, 2003

(Rates calculated per 100,000 adults of each race)

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

Race and Gender

Racial disparities in incarceration for drug offenses are even more evident when the data analysis incorporates gender. As shown in Table 1, drug offenses in 2003 accounted for about two in ten white men entering prison that year (23.9 percent) but nearly four in ten black men (38.3 percent). The differences were less marked among women: drug offenses accounted for 35.9 percent of white women entering prison that year and 36.7 percent of black women.

The proportion of black men sent to prison in 2003 because of drug offenses ranged from a low of one in 10 (Oregon, 11.6 percent) to a high of one in two (New Jersey, 55.1 percent, and Maryland, 50.7 percent). The proportion of white men sent to prison because of drug offenses was never higher than 41.8 percent (Oklahoma).

Drug offenses play a greater role in sending women to prison than men. In seven states (Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin), drug sentences accounted for 50 percent or more of all black women sent to prison in 2003. Convictions for drug offenses accounted for 50 percent or more of the new admissions among white women in three states (North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah).

We computed the prison admission rates for drug offenses per 100,000 adult residents for the 34 NCRP participating states, disaggregating the data by gender and race. As shown in Table 3, the drug admission rates for the 34 states together were 495.5 for black men, 44.0 for black women, 42.1 for white men and 9.1 for white women. Drug admission rates for black men ranged from a low of 66.8 per 100,000 black adult males in Oregon, to a high of 1,227.6 in Illinois. For white men, the rates of drug offender admissions ranged from a low of 14.3 per 100,000 white male adult residents in West Virginia to a high of 143.7 in Oklahoma. The highest black male rate is 8.5 times greater than the highest white male rate. The rates at which black women were sent to prison for drug offenses ranged from a low of 11.0 per 100,000 black female adults in Michigan[50] to a remarkably high 387.6 in South Dakota. The lowest rate for white women was 1.9 in Wisconsin and the highest was 35.9 in Oklahoma. (The contrast between the black and white rates for men and women in each state is displayed graphically in Figures 6 and 7).

Among the 34 states, black men were admitted to prison on drug charges at 11.8 times the rate of white men. (Table 5). The lowest ratio of black to white male drug admission rates was 2.1, in Missouri, with the highest in Wisconsin, at 46.1. That is, a black man was twice as likely as a white man to be sent to prison on drug charges in Missouri and 46 times as likely in Wisconsin.

Marked racial disparities exist among female offenders as well, although the magnitude of the disparity is smaller. As seen in Table 5, black women are sent to prison on drug charges at 4.8 times the rate of white women. In five states (Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, South Dakota, and Wisconsin), black women are sent to prison on drug charges at more than 10 times the rate of white women, with the greatest disparities in South Dakota (the rate at which black women entered prison for drug offenses was 20 times greater than that of white women) and Wisconsin (black women's rate was 27.6 times greater than that of white women).

Fig.6: Male Rates of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, by Race, 2003

(Rates calculated per 100,000 male residents of each race)

-

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

Fig.7: Female Rates of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses, by Race, 2003

(Rates calculated per 100,000 female residents of each race)

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

Table 5: Ratio of Black:White Rates of Prison Admissions for Drug Offenses by Gender, 2003

State

Black:White

Black:White

Black:White

Male

Female

Total

Alabama

4.4

1.3

3.5

California

11.8

6.8

10.6

Colorado

14.3

13.2

14.4

Florida

14.0

4.5

11.7

Georgia

6.2

1.7

5.0

Hawaii

6.1

3.3

5.8

Illinois

27.7

12.8

23.6

Iowa

7.5

4.5

7.7

Kentucky

7.1

3.4

6.2

Louisiana

8.7

3.0

7.3

Maryland

19.2

12.3

17.4

Michigan

13.4

5.2

11.8

Minnesota

10.1

6.3

10.1

Mississippi

3.6

1.4

3.0

Missouri

2.1

1.2

2.7

Nebraska

4.4

5.8

4.6

Nevada

8.0

2.4

6.6

New Hampshire

6.9

0.0

7.1

New Jersey

23.7

9.6

20.6

New York

17.1

6.5

14.3

North Carolina

14.2

4.2

10.9

North Dakota

3.1

4.8

3.8

Oklahoma

4.8

3.3

4.4

Oregon

3.5

6.5

4.1

Pennsylvania

14.8

4.2

13.1

South Carolina

11.3

3.2

9.3

South Dakota

6.0

20.0

9.0

Tennessee

11.0

2.6

8.4

Texas

13.9

5.9

11.7

Utah

6.6

7.7

7.5

Virginia

15.3

7.1

13.2

Washington

9.7

8.5

10.1

West Virginia

17.2

9.9

16.3

Wisconsin

46.1

27.6

42.4

Total*

11.8

4.8

10.1

Source: National Corrections Reporting Program, 2003.

* Total calculated on basis of 34 reporting states.

[41] Racial disproportions in US incarceration have been extensively documented. For example, black men are incarcerated under state or federal jurisdiction at 6.2 times the rate of white men, and black women are incarcerated at 3.1 times the rate of white women. Sabol, BJS, "Prisoners in 2006," Table 10, p. 8. The rate of sentenced prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction per 100,000 residents is 487 for white men, compared to 3,042 for black men. The rate for white women is 48, compared to 148 for black women. Ibid., Appendix, Table 7, p. 23. About one in every 33 black men is a sentenced prisoner, compared to one in every 205 white men. Ibid., p. 8. Approximately 16.6 percent of adult African American men have been in prison, compared to 2.6 percent of white men. Bonczar, "Prevalence ofImprisonment in the U.S. Population 1974-2001," p. 1.

[42] Paige M. Harrison and Allen J. Beck, Ph.D., BJS, "Prisoners in 2001," July 2002, Table 19, p. 13, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/p01.pdf (accessed April 18, 2008).

[43] Sabol, BJS, "Prisoners in 2006," Table 11, p.8.

[44] Lurigio, " Disproportionate Incarceration of African Americans for Drug Crimes: The Illinois Perspective," p. 6.

[45]Other racial backgrounds-Indian American, Asian, Native Hawaiians, other-as well as admissions where race was marked unknown or left blankaccount for the remainder.

[46] The "total" rate is calculated on the basis of all prison admissions for drug offenses in the 34 states and the combined populations of those states. Throughout this report, "totals" are calculated on the basis of all the 34 states' data combined. They do not reflect averages. We do not know the extent to which the figures for the 34 reporting states would be consistent with figures for the non-reporting states.

[47] Throughout this report, all calculations of rates relative to population are based on adult residents in the state. See Chapter IX, Methodology.

[48] In 1986 the rate of admission for blacks for drug offenses was 49 per 100,000 black adults, and for whites it was 9 per 100,000 white adults. Vincent Schiraldi, Barry Holman, and Phillip Beatty, The Sentencing Project, "Poor Prescription: The Costs of Imprisoning Drug Offenders in the United States," p. 7, http://www.cjcj.org/drug/ (accessed April 24, 2008). See also Pamela E. Oliver, Ph.D., "Racial Patterns in State Trends in Prison Admissions 1983-2003: Drug and Non-drug Sentences and Revocations," http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~oliver/RACIAL/StateTrends/RacialPatterns_Intro_National.pdf (accessed February 19, 2008). Dr. Oliver uses data from the National Corrections Reporting Program to develop national and state-by-state graphs depicting prison admissions for participating states over a 20-year period.

[49] If there were a robust correlation, the states would cluster closely along a line rising diagonally from a low on the left side of the figure to a high on the right side.

[50] Excluding New Hampshire, which had an admission rate of zero for black women.