Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System Notes (Eva)


  • In 2015, more than 6.7 million people were under some form of correctional control in the United States
  • The United States has the largest number of incarcerated people in the world
  • Black people are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and have lengthy prison rates
  • Black adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated as white adults, and Hispanic adults are 3.1 times as likely
  • The US operates on two distinct justice system: one for the rich, and one for the poor


  • In 2016 black Americans made up 27% of all individuals arrested in the US; more than two times their share of the United States population
  • 15% of American children were black yet 35% of juvenile arrests were black
  • More than 25% of people arrested for drug violations in 2015 were black, although rates drug use do not vary greatly between races
  • New York City had a stop-and-frisk tactic, which largely targeted male residents of low-income neighborhoods
    • This was declared ineffective and unconstitutional


  • Disparities in pretrial detention
  • Pretrial detention is shown to increase rates of conviction
    • People detained before trial are more likely to receive longer sentences and less likely to take beneficial plea deals
  • Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be denied bail


  • While African Americans and Latinos make up 29% of the US population, they make up 57% of the prison population
  • Of the 277,000 people imprisoned nationwide for a drug offense, 56% are African American or Latino
  • African American youth are 4.1 times as likely to be committed to secure placement, Native Americans are 3.1 times as likely, and Hispanics are 1.5 times as likely
  • Prosecutors are more likely to charge people of color with crimes that carry larger sentences
  • Most jurisdictions underfund their public defenders, which makes it harder for people from low-income communities to access good legal defense


  • Some research suggests that parole boards are influenced by an applicant’s race in their decision making
  • Racial bias among correctional officers also influences the outcome of parole

Post Prison/Collateral Consequence

  • Black men are most exposed to the collateral consequences of having a criminal record
  • In 2010, 8% of all adults in the United States had a felony charge on their criminal record
    • Among black men, that rate was 33%
  • Research has revealed that whites with criminal records experience better treatment than blacks without criminal records
  • People with criminal convictions face housing and workplace discrimination

Uggen, Chris. “Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System.” The Sentencing Project, 1 May 2018,

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