Unfreedom update: 2010 incarceration stats

I can’t teach my course on family sociology without these graphs, which show the rise of the unfree population, and the incredible race/ethnic and gender disparities behind them.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released Correctional Population in the United States, 2010, which updates my standard figures. First, the total trend toward unfreedom in the population — from less than 2 million in 1980 to more than 7 million 30 years later:

And second, to understand the disparate impact of this change on Black men in young adulthood primarily — and secondarily, Latino men — here are the rates of incarceration for men by age and race/ethnicity (Blacks here exclude Latinos; Asians and American Indians are not included in the statistics):

Just to make sure you read the scale right, that incarceration rate for Black men in their early 30s is 9,892 per 100,000, or 9.9%, or one-in-ten — more than five-times the rate for White men.

I come at this largely from its effects on families. In a nutshell: The overall trend is largely a consequence of how the U.S. has waged its drug war over this period; these policies fit into a web of practices that deny families to millions of people in the U.S. (only a minority of whom have been convicted of crimes), including by simply removing men from communities and increasing the number of single-parent families.

All that said, you may notice the little decline at the end of that long upward trend in the first figure. In fact, for the first time since 1980, there has been a decline in the incarcerated population for two years running. There has been a long-term decline in crime, but I don’t know whether that is more important than the budget crises facing so many states, or the diminished lust for locking people up. In New York, for example, seven incarceration facilities were closed in the last year, after the number of prisoners dropped about one-fifth in the past decade:

The inmate decline followed a 25 percent statewide drop in crime over the past decade and revisions in sentencing laws that allowed earlier releases and alternative programs for nonviolent drug offenders. The number of prisoners in medium-security prisons declined almost 20 percent from 2001 to 2010 while those in minimum-security facilities dropped 57 percent.

The numbers on the charts are still off the charts, meanwhile — and remember these are just those in the system now. Many more people (and their families) live lives permanently hampered by criminal records and the experience of imprisonment.

6 Comments

Filed under In the news

6 responses to “Unfreedom update: 2010 incarceration stats

  1. Taylor Houston

    Hey Dr. Cohen,
    Could you add a graph of the Bureau’s statistics on women in prison/jail by race to your post? While it tends to be ignored by many criminologists, since men do disproportionately commit more crime, several scholars (Chesney-Lind and Jones 2010) have pointed out that there is a small, but significant increase in women being incarcerated, especially girls and women of color. And we should not ignore the issues surrounding these findings.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Incarceration Mapping… « Inequality by (Interior) Design

  3. You haven’t even included those diagnosed mentally ill…who have less rights than convicts, and no freedoms to choose Dr., or take drugs, or keep their homes, and be free and safe within those homes. State merely has to claim you’re acting irradical and can break in your door and take you to a psych ward, then take your home, force you to take pills, and take your money. It happened to daughter!

    Like

  4. I wonder what a graph would look like of those incarcerated in Mental Health Units against their will?

    Like

  5. Pingback: What they say about race when they don’t say anything about race and poverty | Family Inequality

  6. Pingback: #Slavery system = People as property | HAPLOGROUP - bit that makes us human.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s