Diversity in Prison
The late twentieth century is seeing a rise in racial conflict in the United States as well as on the universal stage in a broad-spectrum (Phillips & Bowling, 2002). Statistics indicate that racial/ethnic minorities, particularly black males, face a disproportionately high risk of incarceration in the United States. This determination is made by assessing the negative impact that incarceration can have on individuals, their communities, and the integration of minorities into the nation’s larger social, economic, and political landscape (Yates, 1997). Discrimination in the incarceration of blacks clearly stands out as today’s (Greenfield, 2011) most critical issue in the study of race, crime, and justice. The criminal justice system is rooted in a philosophy of equality and justice for all. Policymakers, practitioners, and academics must continually monitor closely for the potential for discrimination and vigorously search for its sources (Phillips & Bowling, 2002). Crime statistics have played an important role and given discussion to the correlation between race and crime. However, this has caused controversy among the nation, and it raises debates on the causes and contributing factors to the racial incarceration percentages. The National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) program has been collecting statistics on prisoners at midyear and yearend under a Congressional mandate since 1926. The Census Bureau serves as the data collection agent for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). BJS depends entirely upon the voluntary participation of State Departments of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons for NPS data (Greenfield, 2011). The NPS distinguishes between prisoners in custody and prisoners under jurisdiction. To have custody of a prisoner, a state or the federal system must hold that prisoner in one of its facilities. To have jurisdiction over a prisoner, a state or the federal system must have legal authority over the prisoner. Some states are unable to provide both custody and jurisdiction counts. The NPS jurisdiction counts include inmates held within a jurisdiction’s facilities, including prisons, penitentiaries, correctional facilities, halfway houses, boot camps, farms, training/treatment centers, and hospitals (Elliott, Fremont, Morrison, Pantoja, & Lurie, 2008). For 2000 and 2007, estimates were produced separately for inmates under state and federal jurisdiction, and then they were combined to obtain a total estimated population. State estimates were prepared by combining information about the gender of prisoners from the NPS with information on self-reported race and Hispanic origin from the 2004 Survey of Inmates of State Correctional Facilities. To estimate federal prisoners, the distributions of FJSP counts of sentenced federal inmates by gender, age, races, and Hispanic origin on September 30, 2006, were applied to the NPS counts of sentenced federal inmates by gender at midyear 2007 (Elliott, Fremont, Morrison, Pantoja, & Lurie, 2008). Age-specific rates of incarceration for each demographic group were calculated by dividing the estimated number of sentenced prisoners within each age group and by the estimated number of U.S. residents in each age group, then multiplying the quotient by 100,000, and rounding to the nearest whole number. Totals by gender include all prisoners and U.S. residents regardless of racial or Hispanic origin, while incarceration rates for detailed race and Hispanic origin groups exclude persons identifying two or more races (Arvanites & Asher, 1998). Despite decades of research, the impact that extra-legal variables such as race and income inequality have on the imprisonment rate remains unclear (Yates, 1997). Dominant sociological theories offer conflicting explanations of imprisonment. The first, which can be described as the consensus perspective, holds that imprisonment is a direct response to crime. Therefore, incarceration should be greatest in...
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