Social Justice | VOL. 10

Five Theses on Mass Incarceration

Publication Date Jan 1, 2015


According to the latest data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS),in 2014 the prison population of the United States stood at 1361,500 (BJS 2015a, 1), If prisoners held in local jails are added to the count, the population confined behind bars reaches 2,306,100 (for an incarceration rate of 725/100,000), to which one should add the more than 4,7 million individuals currently on parole or probation. In total, more than 7 million people are currently under some form of penal control--almost 3% of the US population, the equivalent of what would be the second-largest city in the United States after New York (BJS 2014a, 2015a, 2015b). However, the sheer extension of the correctional population in the United States does not convey the race and class dimensions of the US penal state--the result of a four-decade-long carceral experiment devised from the outset as a political strategy to restructure racial and class domination in the aftermath of the radical social movements of the 1960s (cf. Alexander 2010; Tonry 2011; Wacquant 2009). As of 2014, 59% of the male prison population was either African American (37%) or Latino (22%). The largest overrepresentation of black prisoners is among males aged 18 to 19: With an incarceration rate of 1,072/100,000, young black men are 10 times more likely to be in a state or federal prison than whites (102/100,000). In 2014, 6% of black men aged 30 to 39 were in prison, compared to 2% of Latinos and 1% of whites of the same age (BJS 2015, I). According to recent estimates, African...


Bureau Of Justice Statistics Prison Population Prison State Prison Penal State Incarcerated Mass Incarceration Nation's Prison Population Federal Prison Population Male Prison Population

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