The interviewee says that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned in the United States; notes that though blacks only make up 13% of the general population, they make up 40% of the prison population. While it is quite likely that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned, it is what the interviewee didn’t say that begs asking. Why is it that blacks are being disproportionately imprisoned? For the answer to that, first, let’s take a look at some U.S. Department of Justice data on arrests:
Selected from the above linked table: Estimated number of arrests by offense and race, 2019, All ages:
All offenses blacks more than 25% of total
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter blacks more than 50% of totalotal….
Robbery blacks more than 50% of total
Aggravated assault blacks more than 33% of total
These Justice Department figures tell us that blacks are in fact committing a disproportionate percentage of all crimes being committed. What else do we know in our search for the why?
It is known, or at least believed to be known: That, by far, most black citizens are law abiding. That upper and middle income blacks are exceptionally law abiding. That in modern day populations, males are far more likely to commit crimes than females. That almost all crimes by black Americans are committed by young black males. That nearly half of black Americans live in areas of concentrated poverty. That almost all of the crime committed by black Americans is committed by young black males between the ages of 12 and 34 years of age who live in areas of concentrated poverty (most of their victims live in these same areas).
It would help to know: What percentage of those black Americans who live in areas of concentrated poverty are males between the ages of 12 and 34. What percentage of this group commit criminal acts.
If we estimate 12 to 34 year old black males constitute 12% of the black population in areas of concentrated poverty, and that one-half of them are committing criminal acts; we aren’t looking at 13% of the population committing a disproportionate of all crimes committed. We are looking at (0.5 x 0.12 x 0.13 x 100 ~ 0.9%) less than 1%, of the overall population committing an extremely disproportionate per cent of all crimes committed. More specifically, we are talking about young black males in poor urban black communities committing an extremely disproportionate per cent of all crimes.
Why is it that 12 to 34 year old black males who live in urban areas of concentrated poverty are committing crimes at such a disproportionately high rate? Why is the cause we seek. Living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty is the where. Why do young black males living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty more like to commit criminal acts? It is known, or thought to be known, that young males are more likely to commit crimes. There appears to be little, if any evidence, that race alone is a factor. Leaving us with young males living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty; with good reason to suppose that the lack of adequate housing, food, healthcare, education, hope, … of everything they need, and want, might be the most significant factor, the greater cause. These causes/things: inadequate housing, inadequate food, inadequate healthcare, inadequate education, little reason for hope, …, are things we as a society can do something about. Our doing so would be far better than going forward with the long failed more and more incarceration, imprisonment.
It appears that the most proximate cause of the most disproportionate percentage of young black males being incarcerated was their socioeconomic environs. Suppose that the reason for one group of citizens having a disproportionately high arrest rate was found to be because of their ‘culture’, their biology, their genetics, their upbringing, their psychology, …? Or, some combination of these things? What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and socioeconomic status’ look like? What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and culture’ look like? We have learned that there is a strong correlation between whether the child was wanted. What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and parenting’ look like? What other things do we not know? Asking the right questions and getting the correct answers is all important; is our best hope for finding solutions.