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Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading? The most dramatic change in average time served was for murder, which climbed from 5. The second largest growth was in time served for sexual assault, which increased 94 percent, from 3. The slowest rate of increase in time served was for drug offenses, increasing from 1. The stability of time served by those committing drug offenses contrasts with the significant growth in rates of arrest and commitment for drug offenses discussed earlier.

Time served may have changed little because short prison sentences were imposed on those committing drug offenses who may previously have served probation or time in jail. Trends in time served for the other three crime types—aggravated assault, burglary, and robbery—showed somewhat similar growth patterns. Averaging 4. The decomposition of the growth in incarceration rates is summarized in Table From to , the state imprisonment rate for six main crime types grew by percent.

Setting aside drug-related incarceration, for which offending rates are difficult to define and measure, changes in crime trends or in police effectiveness as measured by arrests per crime contributed virtually nothing to the increase in incarceration rates over the year period. Rather, the growth can be attributed about equally to the two policy factors of prison commitments per arrest and increases in time served. These results are based on consideration of changes in all six crime types.

Because the response to drug-related crimes is so distinctive and significant, Beck and Blumstein examined the other five crime. The estimate was obtained by surveying state and federal prison authorities. It is unclear whether the count of prisoners serving life sentences includes those in custody or under jurisdiction.

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Custody and jurisdiction definitions typically yield slightly different counts of prison populations. In , the same survey estimated that another 5, people were serving life sentences in federal prisons. NOTE: See text for a discussion of calculations of time served. When each decade is examined separately, different factors are found to contribute to the growth in incarceration rates. The first decade, , saw the largest increase in the state incarceration rate percent.

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The largest share of this growth is attributable to changes in commitments per arrest, which accounted for 79 percent of the growth in the six-offense analysis and 50 percent when drug offenses were excluded. The time-served effect was fairly small 14 percent when drug crimes were included but more than doubled 38 percent when they were omitted. The significant growth in enforcement for drug-related offenses in the s thus is associated with a large increase in prison admissions, but those convicted of drug offenses were serving relatively short sentences.

During the second decade, the s, when the state incarceration rate grew by 55 percent from a much-enlarged base compared with , considerable attention was paid to increasing sentences, and especially time served, through various legislative actions, such as truth-in-sentencing. This is shown by the fact that in the s, time served replaced imprisonments per arrest as the leading factor in growth in incarceration rates, accounting for 74 percent of the growth for all six crimes and 62 percent when drug crimes are excluded.

The final decade, , was a period of. Growth in the incarceration rate has been larger and more sustained in the federal system than in the states. Between and , the federal prison population increased by nearly percent, from 24, to ,, surpassing the growth in state prison systems. By , the federal system was the third largest prison system in the nation, behind those of Texas and California.

By , the federal system, with a population of , inmates, had grown to be larger than the next largest system, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, by more than 36, inmates Guerino et al. The federal system thus accounts for roughly 10 percent of the total prison population, but its share has been growing during the prison boom. Nearly all incarceration in federal prisons is due to federal convictions for robbery; fraud; and drug, weapon, and immigration offenses. The other two crime types that saw comparably large growth are weapon and immigration offenses, which also increased more than 1, percent; that growth is less apparent because incarceration rates for these offenses started at such low levels in The incarceration rate for fraud grew considerably about percent over this period, but still much less than the rates for the other three crime types.

The incarceration rate for robbery rose steadily from 2. Since , the patterns of growth in incarceration rates have changed. At the same time, the dominant source of growth was weapon offenses, up percent from 5. Fraud showed little change up 5. The discussion thus far has examined the growth in incarceration rates, linking it to trends in crime, arrests, prison admissions, and time served.

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The data point clearly to the increased rate of prison admission particularly marked for drug crimes and the increase in time served especially for violent offenses as sources of increased incarceration rates. A parallel set of questions about the relative contributions of crime and the criminal justice system has been raised in the analysis of racial disparities in incarceration. As noted earlier, the rise in incarceration rates has had a disproportionately large effect on African Americans and Latinos. Having higher rates of poverty and urbanization and a younger age distribution, minority populations—at least for some categories of offenses—also show higher rates of offending and victimization.

As incarceration rates were increasing, how much of the evolving racial and ethnic disparity in those. FIGURE State and federal prison admission rates, to , and state and federal imprisonment rates, to , for blacks and whites. Hispanics are included among both racial groups. Black and white imprisonment rates are from Beck and Blumstein This question, of course, is not just of descriptive interest; it is central to understanding the social significance of the emergence of high incarceration rates.

The sources of racial and ethnic disparities in incarceration are discussed in Chapter 3. Trends in black and white imprisonment are shown in Figure The data are available annually from to and then intermittently for the post-World War II period until They show an. Note that Hispanics are not counted separately and are therefore included in the numbers for blacks and whites presented here.

Prison admission rates climbed steeply in the mids but much more in absolute terms for African Americans than for whites. The disparity in incarceration can be measured in both absolute and relative terms. The absolute disparity is measured by the difference between black and white incarceration rates, while the relative disparity is measured by the black-white ratio in incarceration rates. Table shows the trend in absolute and relative disparity for imprisonment and admission rates for selected years from to Through the s and s, racial disparities increased in both absolute and relative terms.

The increase in absolute disparities is especially striking, growing more than 3-fold from to for prison admission rates and more than doubling from to for imprisonment rates.


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The large increase in absolute disparities reflects the extraordinarily high rates of incarceration among African Americans that emerged with the overall growth of the incarceration rate. From onward, the white incarceration rate increased more rapidly than the incarceration rate for blacks, and the relative disparity declined. Still, the absolute disparity increased significantly in the s as black incarceration rates continued to grow, and serving time in state or federal prison became commonplace for young African American men in poor communities.

Because of the large disparity—which was already high in —the steep increase in incarceration rates produced extremely high rates of incarceration for blacks but not whites. In , the imprisonment rate for blacks was 4. Although the disparity had declined from its peak in the early s, it was still very large—of a magnitude that exceeds racial differences for many other common social indicators.

For example, black-white ratios for indicators as varied as wealth, employment, poverty, and infant mortality are significantly smaller than the 4.

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The relative involvement of blacks in violent crimes has declined significantly since the late s see Figure From to , the relative share of blacks in arrests for rape and aggravated assault fell by around one-fourth; more modest declines in their share of arrests were recorded for murder and robbery from the s to the s. In the s, blacks. FIGURE Average percentage of blacks among total arrests for murder and non-negligent manslaughter, robbery, forcible rape, and aggravated assault, by decade, to For robbery, blacks accounted for 55 percent of arrests in the s, falling to 52 percent by the s.

For rape, blacks accounted for about 46 percent of all arrests in the s, declining by 14 percentage points to 32 percent by the s. The declining share of blacks in violent arrests also is marked for aggravated assaults, which constitute a large majority of violent serious crimes: 41 percent in the s and just 33 percent in the s.

These figures show that arrests of blacks for violent crimes constitute smaller percentages of absolute national numbers that are less than half what they were 20 or 30 years ago Tonry and Melewski, Violent crime has been falling in the United States since In absolute terms, involvement of blacks in violent crime has followed the general pattern; in relative terms, it has fallen substantially more than the overall averages. Yet even though participation of blacks in serious violent crimes has declined significantly, disparities in imprisonment between blacks and whites have not fallen by much; as noted earlier, the incarceration rate for non-Hispanic black males remains seven times that of non-Hispanic whites.

The situation for drug offenses is similar to that for violent crime in some respects, but there is a critical difference.

Although, according to both arrest and victimization data, blacks have higher rates of involvement than whites in violent crimes, the prevalence of drug use is only slightly higher among blacks than whites for some illicit drugs and slightly lower for others; the difference is not substantial.

There is also little evidence, when all drug types are considered, that blacks sell drugs more often than whites Tonry, a, Chapter 3. In recent years, drug-related arrest rates for blacks have been three to four times higher than those for whites see Figure In the late s, the rates were six times higher for blacks than for whites Blumstein and Wallman, The recent relative decrease in racial disparity in drug arrests did not result from reduced police emphasis on black sellers but from increases in total drug arrests and greater emphasis on crimes related to marijuana.

Marijuana arrestees are preponderantly white and are much less likely than heroin and cocaine arrestees to wind up in prison Room et al. Absolute numbers of blacks arrested for trafficking in cocaine and heroin have not fallen significantly; they simply make up a smaller percentage of overall arrest numbers that are rising. Incarceration of Hispanics. In the discussion of black and white incarceration rates thus far, Hispanics have been included in those two racial groups.

Distinguishing incarceration rates for Hispanics helps underline ethnicity as another source of disparity. Separating Hispanics from non-Hispanics also modifies understanding of the racial disparity in incarceration rates between non-Hispanic blacks and whites. In , only 12 percent of the white state prison population and a negligible proportion of blacks reported being of Hispanic origin. By , 24 percent of the white prison population and around 3 percent of blacks reported being Hispanic.