Report: Imprisonment rate of Black men fell by nearly 50% since 2000

WASHINGTON, DC – The Sentencing Project recently released a new report, “One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration,” that presents an overview of trends in incarceration and community supervision. The report identifies the progress made in the 21st century in reducing the U.S. prison population and its racial and ethnic disparities, while sounding the alarm about the future of reforms.  One in five Black men born in 2001 is likely to experience imprisonment within their lifetime, a decline from one in three for those born in 1981. But rather than accelerate the pace of reforms, pushback from policymakers threatens further advancement.

“One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration'' is the first report in a new four-part series called “One in Five'' that will examine racial inequities in America’s criminal legal system, and highlight tested reforms. The “One in Five” series will provide critical updates to The Sentencing Project’s “Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System” report, which was first released in 2015.

According to the report, the imprisonment rate of Black men in 2021 fell by almost half (48%) since 2000, yet Black men were still imprisoned at 5.5 times the rate of white men. The imprisonment rate of Black women declined by 70% since 2000, but Black women remained imprisoned at 1.6 times the rate of white women.

The report also found that:

The total prison population has declined by 25% after reaching its peak level in 2009.

While all major racial and ethnic groups experienced decarceration, the Black prison population has downsized the most.

American Indian and Latinx people were imprisoned at 4.2 times and 2.4 times the rate of whites in 2021, respectively. 

The Sentencing Project is producing the “One in Five” series of four reports to examine the narrowing and persistence of racial injustice in the criminal legal system, as well as highlight promising reforms. 

The first installment presents an overview of incarceration and supervision trends. 

Subsequent reports will focus on: 

The high levels of contact initiated by police, particularly with people of color, as well as differential crime rates. Release date: November 2023

Three key drivers of disparity from within the criminal legal system addressed by promising reforms from dozens of jurisdictions around the country. Release date: December 2023

Criminal legal policies that jeopardize public safety by exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and the reforms that correct this final source of injustice. Release date: January 2024