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The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women’s Incarceration

February 28, 2013

The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women’s Incarceration

Source: Sentencing Project

From 2000 to 2009 there was a dramatic shift in the racial composition of the women’s prison population. In 2000, African American women were incarcerated at 6 times the rate of white women. By 2009, that disparity had dropped by half, to less than three times the white rate.

The factors contributing to these changes include: sharply reduced incarceration of African American women for drug offenses in some states; declining rates of arrest of black women for violent, property, and drug offenses; and, cumulative social disadvantages that are increasingly affecting less educated white women.

Recommendations for addressing these issues include conducting state-based analyses of racial disparity, enacting proactive racial impact statement legislation, and engaging practitioners in projects to reduce disparities in local jurisdictions.

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