Racial Equity

Incarceration increases in the U.S., putting families at long-term disadvantage

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Infographic showing percentage breakdown of how many people are locked up in the United States.
This infographic is from Prison Policy Initiative.

In Brief

  • Incarceration rates in the U.S. have dramatically increased since 1972, and families and children are bearing the consequences.
  • The Prison Policy Initiative released an updated 2019 version of the Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie report.
  • The report shows that people of color and low-income people continue to be disproportionately incarcerated.
  • As more people are imprisoned, families must manage ongoing separation, stress and long-term economic disadvantage.

Why This Matters

Incarceration rates in the U.S. have dramatically increased since 1972, and families and children are bearing the consequences.

Infographic of the U.S. map that visually shows you how much 10.6 million jail admissions look like.
This infographic is from Prison Policy Initiative.

Currently, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 70 percent of convictions resulting in confinement – a much greater percent than other developed nations with comparable crime rates. At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we want all communities to be vibrant, engaged and equitable. Embedded within all we do are commitments to advancing racial equity and racial healing; approaches that are necessary to create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success. As more of our citizens are imprisoned, families must manage ongoing separation, stress and long-term economic disadvantage.

The Prison Policy Initiative, is a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that produces cutting edge research on the state of mass criminalization in America. They recently released an updated 2019 version of the Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie report, which contains data on “who is incarcerated or confined in different kinds of prisons, jails and other correctional and detain facilities in the U.S.”

On any given day, nearly 53,000 youth are held in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile or criminal justice involvement – with nearly one in ten held in an adult jail or prison.

A graph showing the racial and ethnic disparities in correctional facilities.
This infographic is from Prison Policy Initiative.

Black and American Indian youth are overrepresented in juvenile facilities, while white youth are underrepresented. For adults, the disparity is particularly stark, with Black Americans making up 40 percent of the incarcerated population while only representing 13 percent of U.S. residents.

The Opportunity

Racial disparities continue to exist; with people of color and low-income people disproportionately incarcerated. State and federal prison costs would be cut $30 billion annually if Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos were incarcerated at the rate of Whites. Currently Black men are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of White men, while Hispanic/Latino men are incarcerated at twice the rate of White men.

We need the full creative and economic potential of all our people. Greater racial equity will not only improve individual lives, it will increase the size of the economic pie for everyone.

Related Links

Read along! The following books are part of the “Deeper Than Our Skins” collection:

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
  • Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Sonny Liew
  • Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodrigues

Do you to engage others in the discussion, but are not sure where to start? Download the “Deeper than Our Skins” sample discussion questions for the reading list and/or host a racial healing circle.

Did you get to the end of the reading list and are looking for more? “Deeper than Our Skins” has a related reading list.

In Brief

  • Incarceration rates in the U.S. have dramatically increased since 1972, and families and children are bearing the consequences.
  • The Prison Policy Initiative released an updated 2019 version of the Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie report.
  • The report shows that people of color and low-income people continue to be disproportionately incarcerated.
  • As more people are imprisoned, families must manage ongoing separation, stress and long-term economic disadvantage.

Why This Matters

Incarceration rates in the U.S. have dramatically increased since 1972, and families and children are bearing the consequences.

Infographic of the U.S. map that visually shows you how much 10.6 million jail admissions look like.
This infographic is from Prison Policy Initiative.

Currently, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 70 percent of convictions resulting in confinement – a much greater percent than other developed nations with comparable crime rates. At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we want all communities to be vibrant, engaged and equitable. Embedded within all we do are commitments to advancing racial equity and racial healing; approaches that are necessary to create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success. As more of our citizens are imprisoned, families must manage ongoing separation, stress and long-term economic disadvantage.

The Prison Policy Initiative, is a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that produces cutting edge research on the state of mass criminalization in America. They recently released an updated 2019 version of the Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie report, which contains data on “who is incarcerated or confined in different kinds of prisons, jails and other correctional and detain facilities in the U.S.”

On any given day, nearly 53,000 youth are held in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile or criminal justice involvement – with nearly one in ten held in an adult jail or prison.

A graph showing the racial and ethnic disparities in correctional facilities.
This infographic is from Prison Policy Initiative.

Black and American Indian youth are overrepresented in juvenile facilities, while white youth are underrepresented. For adults, the disparity is particularly stark, with Black Americans making up 40 percent of the incarcerated population while only representing 13 percent of U.S. residents.

The Opportunity

Racial disparities continue to exist; with people of color and low-income people disproportionately incarcerated. State and federal prison costs would be cut $30 billion annually if Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos were incarcerated at the rate of Whites. Currently Black men are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of White men, while Hispanic/Latino men are incarcerated at twice the rate of White men.

We need the full creative and economic potential of all our people. Greater racial equity will not only improve individual lives, it will increase the size of the economic pie for everyone.

Related Links

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