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Young Black Americans and the Criminal Justice System: Five Years Later

NCJ Number
M Mauer; T Huling
Date Published
38 pages
In 1990, the Sentencing Project released a report indicating that almost one in four black males in the 20-29 age group was under some form of criminal justice supervision.
The report received extensive national attention and generated dialogue and activity on the part of policymakers, community organizations, and criminal justice professionals, Despite efforts of the Sentencing Project, many factors contributing to the high rate of criminal justice control for black males remain unchanged or have worsened during the past 5 years. Public policies ostensibly designed to control crime and drug abuse have contributed to growing racial disparity in the criminal justice system. Almost one in three young black men in the 20-29 age group is now under criminal jsutice system supervision. Costs of criminal justice control for the 827,440 young black males are estimated at $6 billion yearly. Black arrest rates for violent crime, 45 percent of arrests nationally, are disproportionate to their share of the population. Drug policies constitute the single most significant factor contributing to the rise in criminal justice populations in recent years, and blacks and Hispanics constitute almost 90 percent of offenders sentenced to State prison for drug possession. The number of black women under criminal justice supervision has also increased significantly. Projections indicate that the current high rates of criminal justice control for blacks will worsen over the next several years, in part due to the impact of "get tough" policies and racially disparate sentencing. Recommendations to lessen racial disparity in the criminal justice system are offered that focus on drug policies, revised national spending priorities, drug treatment, sentencing reform, racial impact statements for sentencing policy legislation, and long-range crime control policies and strategies. 76 notes, 7 tables, and 1 figure


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