One in a Hundred American Adults Imprisoned

1.6 million Americans are in prison.

But Cheney is on the outside. And George Bush is on the outside. And the Keating five are on the outside. That entire mafia of American upper class privilege strips the wealth of the nation, destroys lives around the globe, operates outside the law and gets away with it, while inner-city hard-cases get cracked for a little weed and put away for years where they won’t be cluttering up the unemployment statistics.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 adult black men is, too, as is one in nine black men ages 20 to 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States (pdf file), also found that one in 355 white women ages 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one in 100 black women.

What was it Pogo the ‘possum used to say? “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Posted in Disparities, Politics, Prison Reform
19 comments on “One in a Hundred American Adults Imprisoned
  1. Stu Savory says:

    There’s an interesting bipolar distribution of IQ (and education) amongst prisoners too.
    Physical crimes versus white-collar (financial etc) crimes.
    Education level may correlate with race, I suspect.

    Or is DWB (driving while black) still a crime in the US?

  2. DWB will get you pulled over. Being B is probable cause for a search. Unless, like me, you’ve given up practically everything that’s pleasurable on this planet, a search will usually get you popped. A bust will get you jailed. Now, any guesses regarding disparities in charging, bringing to trial and sentencing disparities?

  3. Stu Savory says:

    Here in Germany, prisoners are disproportionately from a 1st (and even 2nd now) generation background.
    The Russians (who seem to be innately more violent) and the Turks (moslems) both have a language problem, hence were worse in school, hence a poorer education, hence less likely to get a job. We are trying to tackle this by providing extra language lessons in school for the 2nd generation and offering (free) language and vocational classes for the first. The latter has less acceptance though. The ratio of criminals of a certain background seems to be 2 to 4 times as high for immigrants.

    Just saying. Don’t really know how to tackle it, other than the language classes. I’m an immigrant here myself, but had no problem (Protestent work ethic?).

  4. Can you direct me to some data corroborating this “innate violence” of Russians you speak of?

  5. EuroYank says:

    Actually there are 2.3 million Americans behind bars, not counting the millions on probation and home arrest, and 1 in 9 blacks is in prison. Its all in the wording to bring truth to the statistics!

  6. EuroYank… thnks for the info. I haven’t followed those links yet today, but I can affirm your earlier observation regarding the numbers “behind bars.” The data regarding 1.6 million people in prison doesn’t count the hundreds and hundreds of thousands in local jails. It counts prisoners incarcerated in US state or federal prisons. Page five of the Pew Report (pdf file) breaks this down and confirms the over 700,000 Americans “jailed” at that time (as distinct from “imprisoned”)for a total of your figure of more than 2.3 million.

    * * *

    Stu Savory… I think you left out the word “immigrant” in your first line. Inserting it seems to make sense of what otherwise is a confusing sentence. I await your response to Oliver Shulman with interest. Meanwhile, you may want to glance at this blog post regarding use of the word “Moslem” and see if you can make sense of it. It all went right by me, I can tell you. Reminded me of that old joke,

    Q: “Why was Linda Ronstadt such a great pitcher in little league?”
    A: “Because her fastball Blue Bayou.”

    Anyway, I don’t know what these youngsters are so worked up about. It’s like somebody is forcing us to say Beijing instead of Peking, or Sri Lanka instead of Ceylon. If it was good enough for the Raj, I think it should be good enough for us.

  7. Stu Savory says:

    @fp, yes I missed one word, sorry.

    there was an article in the newspaper (FAZ?) to this effect in december; but I didn’t keep the paper, just the conclusions which I tried to quote from memory.
    I’ll try to look at their archives for you, OK?


  8. madame l says:

    golby pointed to No More Mandelas a couple of days ago. worth watching. it’s a 3 part series. you can find the other two parts on the sidebar.

    also watched Louis Theroux’s Behind Bars with Maeve yesterday which is on topic here.

  9. Stu Savory says:

    After a 10 minute search I haven’t yet found the line about immigrant Russians being overproportionally involved in violent crime. I have however found four sources which show that immigrants in general are
    overproportionally involved in crime in general and violent crime in particular. These are :-

    1) Pfeiffer, Christian: Das Problem der so genannten „Ausländerkriminalität“. Empirische Befunde, Interpretationsangebote und (kriminal-)politische Folgerungen, KFN-Forschungsberichte, Hannover 1995.

    2) (Last Paragraph). Given the source, I think they would have been focussing on Turks.

    From which I quote
    “Eine Tatsache steht freilich fest: Auch in einer bereinigten Kriminalstatistik, die nach Statusgruppen unterscheidet, sind jugendliche Ausländer, insbesondere 14- bis 17-Jährige, im Vergleich zu deutschen Altersgenossen mit mehr Straftaten (Eigentums- und Gewaltdelikten) vertreten. Das hat verschiedene Gründe, zu denen unter anderem wirtschaftliche Probleme, mangelnde Integrationshilfen, unzureichende Sprachkenntnisse und fehlende Chancen auf dem Arbeitsmarkt gehören. Jugendkriminalität ist, bei Ausländern wie bei Deutschen, nicht zuletzt eine Folge der Bildungsmisere.”, which is basically the same point as I was making.

    4) Volkmar Weiss : “Ausländer bei schwerer Gewaltkriminalität überrepräsentiert.” I’d have to Google for his publications tho’.

    I’ll look more tomorrow, OK?

  10. Two words Stu… the one miss was omission of the word “immigrant,” the second was the use of “Moslem” when you meant “Muslim.” Sorry my snarkiness about it deflected from my serious concern regarding that issue of cultural competence. (Three misses if you count misspelling of “Protestant,” a word with an “a” in the last syllable, a conventionally capitalized adjective derived from a proper noun; a noun that itself no longer is capitalized.

    Here in the USA, our prison population is a mixed bag of people convicted for violent and for non-violent crimes. I infer from your generalization regarding immigrant Russian violence that the prison population in Germany is largely comprised of people convicted of violent crimes, or at least the Russian portion of that population comprises violent offenders. Is my inference correct?

  11. Stu,

    No please, don’t go to the trouble to cite some opinion of some journalist whose opinion you’ve adopted as being a truism.

    Innate is defined as:
    1. existing in one from birth; inborn; native: innate musical talent.
    2. inherent in the essential character of something: an innate defect in the hypothesis.

    I just find it difficult to believe that Russians (immigrants or native) are “innately more violent” than say, the Germans or the Turks.

    A bit like saying that African Americans are innately more lazy or Scots innately more miserly. And so forth.

    It just struck me as an odd word choice. 🙂 No harm done. And of course, I don’t have the advantages of living in Germany and observing the situation in situ.

    Here in London the Somalians are considerably more violent than other immigrant groups, but I don’t think it’s “innate”. I think it’s because they’ve seen so many people hacked to death that they’ve become somewhat numb.

    And if I may offer one more observation, perhaps the Turkish immigrants seem less violent to you and German journalists because they are too busy being attacked by the native German population.

  12. EuroYank says:

    Frank do you remember this post of mine three years ago that you mentioned on the old blog …

    7 Million Americans In Prison (or Parole)

  13. EuroYank,
    It may have been that post that illuminated our miserable situation for me. You linked to PBS which in turn linked to a number of sources demonstrating 6.6 million people “in the system” as of late 2004. Thanks for your continued efforts shedding light on a range of problems we face while most of us watch “American Idle” and “Shill O’Reilly,” ignorant that the “Leave it to Beaver” paradigm has long since been shattered.

  14. Stu Savory says:

    “Moslem” is the word used in German, so I guess it was force of habit that I did not use “Muslim” as you do. In fact I was not even aware of the difference as being significant until you pointed it out 🙂

    mea culpa “innate” was indeed the wrong adjective.
    According to the g

  15. Stu Savory says:

    Sorry, I got cut off there. To finish :-

    mea culpa “innate” was indeed the wrong adjective.
    According to the government reports, immigrants here are disproportionately more criminal (i.e. jailed) than native Germans. Analysing the type of crimes by nationality indicates that e.g. Russians commit violent crimes overproprtionately and e.g Poles do more car-crime (stealing cars or parts thereof).

    Am I now ‘persona non grata’ here for offering this information, Frank? Would you prefer not to have known?

  16. @Stu,

    You say “According to the government reports, immigrants here are disproportionately more criminal (i.e. jailed) than native Germans.”

    I think the original point of the post may have been emphasising that African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are more apt to be gaoled for the same crimes as their white counterparts, not that they are more criminal or violent, and that economics is a significant part of the equation.

    Please correct me if I’m off base here, but you seem to be implying by stating “disproportionately more criminal (i.e. jailed)” that, for instance, a black guy gaoled for a DWI is “more criminal” than the white Bush appointed judge from Boston is when committing the same crime because the drunken judge was not gaoled.

    The white Bush appointed judge who was, of course, acquitted and happened to be wearing a little black dress, fishnets, blue eye shadow and carrying a purse when he got into a drunken accident, crossing the N.H. state line, on his way back from a gay bar. Does this make the black guy more criminal? Google it. It’s not in some newspaper I’ve read once and mislaid.

    And what, again, are your opinions on the well documented racist attacks on immigrants in Germany?

    I’m not even going to say anything about what you say to Frank except: Is that cross getting heavy yet?

  17. Hi Stu,
    This material is all so complex and subject to interpretation and we carry our biases with us as we select data and present interpretations. Of course you are not persona non grata, but relying on arrest and conviction data to assert that “Poles do more car crime” carries a systemic bias. More accurate (and more clumsy) perhaps to say that Poles are detained, arrested, arraigned, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated more frequently than other immigrant groups for car crimes. At least that is how I am looking at US data right now as it relates to disparities in justice administration. “Recidivism” data also plays a role. Once you are “in the system” as a known car thief, the odds are much better that you will again be in custody for a similar crime within three years than if you are not in the system. Data related to DNA and capital crimes shows that there is a statistically significant number of people in prison who were convicted in error. How much bias does the system have towards easy conviction of people with a record?

    Also, the phrase “according to the government reports” is itself troubling. The Governor of Wisconsin assigned a commission to study these matters as they relate to our little state, a place with more cows than people until quite recently. The report they wrote was courteously diffuse about certain matters because all stakeholders in the system (except, I suppose, the convicts themselves) were represented. A chief of police has a hard time signing off on the idea that black people in his jurisdiction are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, and prosecuted than white people. That looks like racism and public officials pride themselves on the fact that they do as much as possible to uproot that kind of thing. So the report doesn’t really draw hard conclusion of root causes for data as presented.

    Now it is well known that the Poles are a race of horse thieves, so one can see how that would translate to vehicular theft in the modern day. And the Russian race has been remarkable for its violent thuggery since medieval times and before. And we know the Germans as an orderly race of accountants and statisticians, so it is hard for us to question their data. But it would be interesting to see how the data came to be.


  18. Stu, your first comment is quite the foray. Is there an “interesting” conclusion to be drawn from that observation?

    Man, sometimes I wish I was a fly on the horse stables servants’ quarters walls in the centuries before civil rights broke free in america. When I stop and think about all the wondrous and “interesting” observations to be made back then… woo! I’m giddy!



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