“Prisons are getting Whiter. That’s one way mass incarceration might end.”

A disappointing reflection of political reality in the United States: as the population of prisons and jails gets whiter, which it is, the possibility increases of the American public finally addressing the US problem with over-incarceration. Read, Washington Post: Prisons are getting Whiter. That’s one way mass incarceration might end.

President Biden has come a long way since his “Lock the SOBs up” days, pledging on the campaign trail to cut incarceration by 50 percent — and even “go further.” Such a proposition would need support in all 50 states, because the federal government oversees only about 10 percent of the 2.1 million Americans who are behind bars. And that presents a huge obstacle to the president’s ambitious goal: Research shows that many White Americans see incarceration as a “Black problem,” and the more they see it that way, the less willing they are to do anything about it.

Biden and others might surmount this resistance, however, by highlighting a surprising trend: White Americans have been filling jails and prisons at increasing rates in the 21st century. Reducing incarceration, reformers can credibly argue, will benefit Whites as much as Blacks.

It’s true that the criminal justice system is suffused with racial biases that harm African Americans and Hispanics while favoring Whites. But consider some data, beginning with jails. Jails are operated mainly by cities and counties and generally hold inmates for less than a year. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that since 2000, the rate of being jailed increased 41 percent among Whites while declining 22 percent among African Americans. Beginning in 2017, the White rate of being jailed surpassed that of Hispanics for the first time in living memory. And in 2018, Whites became 50 percent of the jail population, particularly notable because Whites represent a lower proportion of the U.S. population than they have in centuries.” continued…

Sharam Kohan

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