Wall Street Journal Perpetuates Myths About Race & Crime

Jason Riley, writing at the Wall Street Journal on August 8, 2017 (“Legalizing Pot Is a Bad Way to Promote Racial Equality” ) "blacks commit violent crimes at seven to 10 times the rate whites do." That assertion is simply false. There is no good evidence that any racial or ethnic group is more inclined to violence or criminal activity than another, it's an assumption that's racist and wrong.

Number of People in the US Serving Time in State and Federal Prisons in 2015 by age, sex, race, and Latinx ethnicity

On December 31, 2015, state and federal prisons combined held a total of 1,476,847 people, of whom 499,400 were non-Latinx whites, 523,000 were non-Latinx blacks, 319,400 Latinx, and 135,100 whose race/ethnicity was counted as "other".

Click here for complete datatable of Number of People in the US Serving Time in State and Federal Prisons, by age, sex, race, and Latinx ethnicity, on December 31, 2015

Number of People In The US Sentenced To and Serving Time In State Prisons For Drug Offenses, by Race and Ethnicity

An illegal drug conviction was the most serious offense for 176,300 out of the 1,249,700 people in the US sentenced to and serving time in state prisons at year-end 2018. That represents 14.1% of all sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction. Of those 176,300 people: 64,500 (36.6%) were non-Latinx white, 52,100 (29.6%) were non-Latinx African American, and 28,800 (16.3%) were Latinx. No race/ethnicity was reported for the remaining 30,900 people (17.5%) serving time in state prison for a drug offense.

Trends and Number of Adults Under Correctional Supervision in the US

"The decline in the total correctional population, from 6,549,700 in 2017 to 6,410,000 in 2018, continued a downward trend that began in 2008 (table 1). Persons supervised in the community on either probation (3,540,000 persons) or parole (878,000) continued to make up the majority of the correctional population at year-end 2018. Nearly 7 in 10 persons in the correctional population were supervised in the community at year-end 2018 (4,399,000), while 3 in 10 were incarcerated in state or federal prisons or local jails (2,123,100).2

Substance Use Treatment in State and Federal Prisons

"The percentage of recent drug users in State prison who reported participation in a variety of drug abuse programs rose from 34% in 1997 to 39% in 2004 (table 9). This increase was the result of the growing percentage of recent drug users who reported taking part in self-help groups, peer counseling and drug abuse education programs (up from 28% to 34%). Over the same period, the percentage of recent drug users taking part in drug treatment programs with a trained professional was almost unchanged (15% in 1997, 14% in 2004).

Imprisonment Rates In the US By Race, Gender, and Ethnicity

"There were 419 sentenced state or federal prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents of all ages at year-end 2019, a decrease from 432 per 100,000 at year-end 2018 (table 5). The federal imprisonment rate in 2019 was 48 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents, and the state rate was 371 per 100,000. The total imprisonment rate in 2019 (419 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents) was the lowest since 1995. (See appendix table 1.) Since peaking at 506 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents in both 2007 and 2008, the total imprisonment rate has fallen 17%.