A common topic discussed in relation to the US criminal legal system is the prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities. White Americans are in the racial majority, making up roughly 76% of the population in 2022 (US Census Bureau, 2022). Despite this majority, several racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the prison system, notably state prisons.
In the United States, Black offenders are imprisoned at approximately five times the rate of White offenders in state prisons (Nellis, 2021). Black Americans are not the only racial minority that are overrepresented in state prisons, either - as shown above, we see that the trend occurs for Hispanic Americans, biracial individals, and Indigenous or First Nations peoples (Prison Policy Initiative, 2022).
Several states report a significant disparity between Black and White inmates in their carceral facilities. Nellis (2021) provides nationwide data in their report "The Color of Justice", though the top 10 states with the highest disparity is depicted below.
The two states with the highest disparity are New Jersey, with a ratio of 12.5:1 (Black to White inmates), and Wisconsin, with a ratio of 11.9:1 (Black to White inmates).
Racial disparities don't end at incarceration rates. There are also marked differences between racial and ethnic groups in instances of police violence.
Mapping Police Violence is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the statistical documentation of police brutality and violence in order to illustrate the need for policy reform. The organization publishes an annual report each year detailing the statistics of killings, instances of violence, and demographics of individuals impacted.
To learn more about the documentation of police violence, check out the resources linked below.
These trends of disparate victimization also contributes to Black Americans having a significantly lower reported confidence in the police than that of White Americans (Jones, 2020).
While the previous linked reports tend to center disparities between Black and White individuals, there are other minorities impacted by this trend as well, including Latinx and Indigenous/First Nations peoples.
For more information on how these populations are impacted, check out the sources below.