Jails / Prisons : Michelle Alexander: More Black Men Are In Prison Today Than Were Enslaved In 1850

Keita Kenyatta

Well-Known Member
Feb 7, 2004
More black men are behind bars or under the watch of the criminal justice system than there were enslaved in 1850, according to the author of a book about racial discrimination and criminal justice.
Ohio State University law professor and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander highlighted the troubling statistic while speaking in front of an audience at the Pasadena Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, Elev8 reports.
Alexander, the author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," reportedly claimed there are more African American men in prison and jail, or on probation and parole, than were slaves before the start of the Civil War.

More than 846,000 black men were incarcerated in 2008, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates reported by NewsOne. African Americans make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to census data, but black men reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates.
The criminal justice system is the newest in a long line of societal structures that have disenfranchised people of color, Alexander argues in her book, according to ColorLines.
In an excerpt from her book published on her website, Alexander writes that despite today's belief in "colorblindness," our criminal justice system effectively bars African American men from citizenship, treating them as a separate caste:

Denying African Americans citizenship was deemed essential to the formation of the original union. Hundreds of years later, America is still not an egalitarian democracy. The arguments and rationalizations that have been trotted out in support of racial exclusion and discrimination in its various forms have changed and evolved, but the outcome has remained largely the same.
More African American men were disenfranchised due to felony convictions in 2004 than in 1870, "the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting



Well-Known Member
Apr 7, 2013
Up to 90% of all Americans arrested at some point in their lives

Subject: What percentage of Americans are arrested in their lifetime?
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: danabrams-ga
List Price: $21.00

What percentage of Americans are arrested in their lifetime?
Out of 100 people how many will have been arrested at least once before they die?
I need a very credible source.
I will be ok with statistics on number of Americans arrested for felonies etc.
But I don't just want info on the number of people convicted or incarcerated.
Thank you.

richard-ga on 20 Jul 2005 17:33 PDT
Hello and thank you for your question.
The U.S. Department of Justice · Office of Justice Programs Bureau of
Justice Statistics has the information you are looking for:
Criminal Offenders Statistics
From their summary page:
Lifetime likelihood of going to State or Federal prison
"If recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 of
every 15 persons (6.6%) will serve time in a prison during their
Lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for
-- men (11.3%) than for women (1.8%)
-- blacks (18.6%) and Hispanics (10%) than for whites (3.4%)
Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of
black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime,
compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males."


Their cited source and update:
Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001
Presents estimates of the number of living persons in the United
States who have ever been to State or Federal prison. Such estimates
include persons in prison and on parole, as well as those previously
incarcerated but no longer under parole supervision. The report also
provides updated estimates of the lifetime chances of going to prison
using standard demographic life table techniques. Such techniques
project the likelihood of incarceration for persons born in 2001,
assuming current incarceration rates continue until their death. Each
of the measures is estimated by age, gender, race, and Hispanic

This report includes updates of data from a previous BJS report,
Lifetime Likelihood of Going to State or Federal Prison.
Highlights include the following:

At yearend 2001, over 5.6 million U.S. adults had ever served time in
State or Federal prison
Of adults in 2001 who had ever served time in prison, nearly as many
were black (2,166,000) as were white (2,203,000). An estimated 997,000
were Hispanic.
If incarceration rates remain unchanged, 6.6% of U.S. residents born
in 2001 will go to prison at some time during their lifetime.
U.S. residents ages 35 to 39 in 2001 were more likely to have gone to
prison (3.8%) than any other age group, up from 2.3% in 1991.
08/03 NCJ 197976
Press release

Acrobat file (335K)
ASCII file (40K)
Spreadsheets (zip format 63K)
About the source data
Codebooks & data sets
See also
Georgia Special Report
Hobbling a Generation:Young African American Men in Washington ...

That's it!
Search terms used:
likelihood arrest lifetime
Thanks again for letting us help
Google Answers Researcher

richard-ga on 21 Jul 2005 05:57 PDT
Hello again.
I have been able to supplement my Answer with the following
information regarding lifetime arrest data. Thank you for your
patience while I put this together.
Two studies estimate cumulative risks of arrest rather than imprisonment:
Blumstein and Graddy 1983
Tillman 1987

The Blumstein-Graddy Study (1968-1977)
In 1983, Alfred Blumstein and Elizabeth Graddy examined 1968-1977
arrest statistics from the country's fifty-six largest cities.23
Looking only at felony arrests, Blumstein and Graddy found that one
out of every four males living in a large city could expect to be
arrested for a felony at some time in his lifetime.24 When broken down
by race, however, a nonwhite male was three and a half times more
likely to have a felony arrest on his record than was a white male.25
Whereas only 14% of white males would be arrested, 51 % of nonwhite
males could anticipate being arrested for a felony at some time during
their lifetimes.26

23.See generally Alfred Blumstein & Elizabeth Graddy, Prevalence and
Recidivism Index Arrests: A Feedback Model, 16 LAW & SOC'Y REV. 265
(1981-82). The cities surveyed were: Birmingham, Phoenix, Tucson,
Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San
Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Washington, D.C., Miami, Jacksonville,
Tampa, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Wichita, Louisville, New
Orleans, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kansas
City, St. Louis, Omaha, Newark, Jersey City, Albuquerque, Buffalo,
Rochester, New York, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus,
Toledo, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Portland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,
Memphis, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Ft. Worth, Austin,
Norfolk, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Honolulu. Id. at 272 n.5.

Blumstein and Graddy did not include misdemeanors, which make up the
largest share of arrests and bookings, in their calculations. Had they
included misdemeanors, the percentage of nonwhite males who could
expect to be arrested and at least briefly jailed would have reached
Blumstein's original prediction of 90%. As appalling as Blumstein's
original numbers seemed, they were confirmed by others over the
ensuing two decades.27

27. See infra notes 28-50 and accompanying text (discussing studies
that confirm Blumstein's finding that 51% of nonwhite males could
anticipate being arrested for felony during their lifetimes).


The Tillman Study (1974-1986)
In 1987, Robert Tillman, a criminologist assigned to the California
Attorney General's Office, found a similar pattern in arrests of
nonwhite males in California, not over a lifetime but in the short
twelve year span between the ages of eighteen and thirty.28 Drawing
upon a 1974 cohort of eighteen year-old males of all races, Tillman
traced their arrest records between 1974 and 1986, when they turned
thirty. He found that almost one out of four had been arrested.29
However, when he broke the percentages down by race, he discovered
that two-thirds of the nonwhite adult males had been arrested and
jailed before completing their twenty-ninth year (41% for felonies)30
Tillman did not include juvenile arrests or arrests after age
thirty.31 In my opinion, had he included these, the lifetime risk of
arrest likely would have surpassed 85%. Moreover, Tillman drew his
cohort of eighteen year-olds from across the whole state of
California. Tillman included both rural and urban youth, not
exclusively city populations as in the Blumstein-Graddy study. In my
opinion, had he confined his sample only to inner-city minority youth,
the numbers arrested before completing their 29th year would have
approached 80%.

28. See generally Robert Tillman, The Size of the "Criminal
Population": The Prevalence and Incidence of Adult Arrest, 25
CRIMINOLOGY 561(1987).

Some of the data is also summarized here:
Participation rates.? For all offenses, 50-60% (urban) males are
arrested in their lifetime.? For Index Crimes 25% lifetime (14%
whites; 50% blacks)? Recidivism: 85-95%? Frequency rates (Lambda) for
active offenders (arrests in Washington DC & Detroit):? Aggravated
assault: 2-3 arrests per year.? Robbery: 3-5 arrests per year.?
Property offenses: more than 5 per year.? Auto theft: 3 in DC; 9 in

Those studies appear to be all that there is


The Age of Aquarius
Sep 27, 2005
Healthcare Provider

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