Race, Crime, and Punishment Just as conscious and unconscious racial notions helped define the drug problem, they have also helped shape political and policy responses to that problem. The legislative history of federal crack sentencing laws, for example, provides reason "to suspect that regardless of the objectives Congress was pursuing, it would have shown more restraint in fashioning the crack penalties or more interest in amending them in ensuing years, if the penalties did not apply almost exclusively to blacks. Politicians have been able to reap the electoral rewards of endorsing harsh drug policies because the group that suffered most from those policies-black Americans-lacked the numbers to use the political process to secure a different strategy. It could have restricted prison to only the most serious drug offenders e.
So, any overall changes in rates of drug use by race may influence involvement in property crime. At a national level, there is no breakdown of drug offenders in prison by the type of drug that they used or sold.
But there is some modest, and mixed, evidence on this at the state level.
For example, the Minnesota Department of Corrections reported that nearly a third of the increase of 3, prisoners male and female combined from was due to a rise in the number of methamphetamine offenders, although there has been a decline since then.
A recent federal case demonstrates how stepped-up methamphetamine enforcement combined with harsh sentencing policies can contribute to escalating prison populations for these offenses. Lori Newhouse, a year old Iowa woman with a lengthy history of substance abuse, was convicted of manufacturing or attempting to manufacture 5 grams or more of pure methamphetamine in Under federal mandatory minimum penalties she was subject to a year sentence, but based on two previous drug convictions in her sentencing guideline range would be enhanced to years due to federal Career Offender sentencing provisions.
The prior convictions arose out of a police raid of her motel room, following which she pled guilty to two separate charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and psilocybin mushrooms.
Had the prior cases been considered as only one offense, Newhouse would not have been subject to the enhanced penalties. Even to the extent that methamphetamine or prescription drug offenses may be contributing to rising numbers of white women in prison, though, this does not provide insight into why fewer black females are now incarcerated for a drug offense.
In this regard, overall changes in drug sentencing policy in some states may provide much of the explanation. Because the rate of incarceration of black women in some states has been so heavily influenced by drug sentencing in the past, any amelioration of such policies is like to disproportionately benefit African American women.
In New York, for example, which has led the nation in its prison population decline, the racial dynamics of drug incarceration and decline have been quite stark. First, the decline of 1, women incarcerated for a drug offense from to explains virtually the entire decline of women in prison during that period with an increase of property offenders and a slight decrease of violent offenders.
This analysis may be particularly relevant for understanding the rising number of white females in prison. Research by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society sheds light on the situation of less educated white women in particular.
Differences in life expectancy due to race and educational differences are widening, and many may not catch up. Health Affairs, 31, The findings show that women still have greater life expectancy than men and that white males and females outlive black males and females at virtually every age range.
Although Hispanics are found to have the highest life expectancy of any group at birth, the researchers caution that the relative mix of the immigrant and US-born populations exerts a strong effect on these figures, and is likely to change in coming years as this mix changes as well. The influence of educational attainment on life expectancy suggests the most relevant effects for the purposes of the incarceration changes we have documented.
As a result, despite advances in health care, this group of white women now has a life expectancy at birth that is only equivalent to that of all women in the country born in In contrast, black women with similar education levels experienced modestly increased longevity during this period, which now slightly outpaces that of white women in this group.
The effect of socioeconomic disadvantage on life prospects suggests possible connections with criminal justice involvement as well. Many of the socioeconomic factors that contribute to lower life expectancy are also associated with high rates of criminal behavior and incarceration.
These include unhealthy lifestyles especially substance abuse and tobacco uselimited access to healthcare, limited ability to cope with stress or manage chronic illness, poverty, and high levels of unemployment.
Reversing trend, life span shrinks for some whites. The New York Times. Thus, the cumulative social disadvantage experienced by certain groups, and for less-educated white women in particular, may contribute to greater likelihood of involvement in substance abuse and crime.
After decades of steadily rising incarceration of African Americans, we have now seen a decade during which these rates have declined modestly for men and substantially for women.
While these developments should not be taken to suggest that the era of mass incarceration of African Americans has ended by any means, it is nonetheless significant that there have been changes in this regard.Racial disproportionality of U.S. prison populations revisited. University of Colorado Law Review 64(3): Subsequent studies have replicated this work with more recent data and found even higher amounts of unexplained disparities, particularly in the category of drug arrests.
Analyzing Stops, Citations, and Searches in Washington and Beyond Alfred Blumstein, Racial Disproportionality of U.S. Prison Populations Revisited, 64 U. COLO. L. REV. percent of the U.S. population, or about thirty-eight million people.
In an average year, over forty. Since the early s the prison and jail population in the United States has increased at an unprecedented rate. PAGE STATE RATES OF INCARCERATION BY RACE & ETHNICITY prisons and jails.4 In Alfred Blumstein, “Racial Disproportionality of U.S.
Prison Populations Revisited,” University of Colorado Law Review, Vol. 64, No. 3.
Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project; Tonry, M.H. (). Punishing race: A continuing American dilemma. New York: Oxford University Press.
As prison populations fluctuate, though, the relative rate of incarceration among racial groups may or may not reflect prevailing patterns.
African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states.
Racial disproportionality of U.S. prison populations revisited. Racial disproportionality in the American prison population: Racial Disproportionality in Iowa and Missouri’s Prison Systems: A Comparison of Rural and Urban Areas Christopher Barnum 1, Timothy Barnum 1.