Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US


Mass incarceration in the US has been in existence since late 1900. The members of the minority group (Black and the Hispanics) have been incarcerated for a long time with a view of being associated with criminal activities within the US border. However, the previous literature shed some light on the causes that lead to the incarceration of Blacks and Hispanics. Some of the studies view incarceration as the result of criminal activities, while some view it as racial. The US crime level is approximately the same among the black, white, and Hispanics. However, the number of people who have been imprisoned are mostly blacks and Hispanics. Most black and Hispanic people are never given a chance, even with petty crimes, while the criminal justice system sets others up because of the prejudices over a given group of people. The paper shows the trauma that the blacks and Hispanic face and the levels of incarceration within the US borders.


Contextual Background

The research is conducted to identify the levels of incarceration in the United States of America. Imprisonment in the US displays that punitive, excess racial profiling and mass incarceration are common phenomena. The incarceration portrays an ugly truth that is hidden within the policies and structures of the US. The criminal justice system is silent, and they show unwillingness to confront the injustices done to people of color. The criminal justice system is silent towards facing the history of oppression and the devaluation of other races, and this makes it challenging to make justice attainable in the USA. The current study focuses on the injustices conducted to the people of color despite policies and regulations set within the US. Understanding the mass of the relationship within mass incarceration will help the US government formulate working policies that will help end mass incarceration among people of color.

Problem Statement

The United States has the highest incarceration rate that remains unsurpassed internationally. Over the last forty years, the incarceration rate has increased by 500% due to social, institutional, and political forces (Bronson & Carson, 2019). Initially, the high incarceration rates targeted distinct minority groups: the black American and Latino communities, which could be related to police deviance. Over time, the disparity between the minorities and white inmates in the prison population narrowed as white inmates increased. This may be attributed to reported increasing crime incidences among the white population (Bronson & Carson, 2019).

Currently, with the election of Donald Trump as America’s 45th president, the immigration-crime nexus has grown to be the center of analysis and debate. The U.S. has experienced an enormous wave of deportation of immigrants, and this has been theoretically linked to decreased crime rates, more so among Latinos. Nevertheless, some studies contest this school of thought that associates the current stringent immigration policies with declining crime rates (Bronson & Carson, 2019). In the face of this conflicting viewpoint, a gap exists to conclusively support the main argument that informs crime rate dynamics (Ousey & Kubrin, 2017). These gaps mainly exist in the sphere of property crime rates, where the immigrant population is treated as a homogenous entity (Baker, 2015). Therefore, this intended longitudinal research will help unpack the homogeneity in property crime rate dynamics.

Theoretical Background

Based on the existing literature, mass incarceration has become a culture and trend in the United States. The responsibility of investigating a crime and gathering evidence to identify and use against a presumed perpetrator falls on law enforcement officials. The law enforcement officials operate on the presumption that until proven guilty, individuals remain suspects and innocent (Kazemi et al., 2019). A Black person is five times more likely to be stopped without just cause than a white person. A Black man is twice more likely to be stopped without just cause than a Black woman. 65% of Black adults have felt targeted because of their race. Similarly, approximately 35% of Latino and Asian adults have felt targeted because of their race (Burki, 2017).

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to analyze the levels of incarceration in the United States, the impact of imprisonment and to display the criminal justice system’s role in increasing the rate of mass incarceration and promoting social disparity as they fight crime within the US borders.

Significance of the study

Through this study, the US citizens, society, and the federal system will understand the onset of incarceration and how racial profiling leads to increased criminal activities as the group that feels segregated tend to behave in a hostile manner believing that they are the ones targeted.

Methodological Overview

The research uses a mixed-method to understand the mass incarceration among blacks and Hispanics in the USA. The research collects data from past studies where the experiences, perceptions, and knowledge of individuals were collected. The purpose and significance of the study are obtained through a critical review of the qualitative studies in the field. Quantitative data is collected to display the levels of incarceration over time.

Scope of the study

The study will cover mass incarceration history and how it became very active in the current times, and the factors that increase incarceration among the US immigrants, black and Hispanic. The study also focuses on how the criminal justice system is enhancing the levels of incarceration through racial profiling and racial hierarchy.

Dissertation structure

The dissertation is organized into five chapters, the first chapter is the introduction to the dissertation, and it clearly states the purpose and significance of the study. The second chapter is the literature review which provides a critical review of various studies on the topic that the dissertation builds. The third chapter is the research methodology chapter which focuses on the approaches used in the collection of data for this study. The fourth provides the research finding of the study, and the fifth chapter is the last chapter of this dissertation, and it interprets the research findings and gives the conclusion to the dissertation.


The primary aspects covered in the introduction chapter of this dissertation are the contextual and theoretical background of the research study, the purpose of the study, the significance of the study, an overview of the methodology employed in the current study. The last part is the scope and the structure of the dissertation. The next chapter focuses on the review and of studies concerning mass incarcerations in the USA.

Literature Review


This chapter provides a critical review of the academic literature that the dissertation builds. The chapter provides an analysis and evaluation of the earlier work of sociologists and political scientists concerning Mass incarceration in the USA. The chapter is divided into theoretical and empirical evidence. The primary theories covered in this topic include conflict theory, labelling theory, history of incarceration, police deviance, corruption and control, and the research gap. The covering of this aspects is to provide insights into what has been covered by other scholars in the field. A review of the topic is done to enhance the knowledge of mass incarceration in the present world and identification of the gap that will be filled by the current study.

Theoretical Evidence

Conflict theory

The research utilizes conflict theory to explain the increase in racial profiling and social hierarchy that leads to mass incarceration in the US. Conflict theory views society as a competition for the limited resources (Eagly, 2017). The perspective is that of the macro-level approach identified by the German philosopher and sociologist Karl Max. Karl Max viewed society as a hierarchy of people with different social classes who compete for political, social, and economic resources such as employment, housing, leisure, food, etc. The public social institutions such as education, government, and religious institutions view the inequality and help maintain the disparities in the social structure (Eagly, 2017). Some individuals, groups, or organizations can obtain many more resources than others and use their power to influence and maintain the social institution. Ludwig further explains the max’s ideas by arguing that war and conquest are the roots of civilization. He views that ethnic and cultural conflict define the dominant group in the society (Eagly, 2017). Conflict theory is significant in this research as it shows how disputes between the immigrants and the American has been elevated by political, social, economic resources.

Labeling theory

Labeling theory is from a sociological perspective known as “symbolic interactionism.” According to Becker, deviance is created by social groups which make rules and regulations aimed at a particular group of people through labeling them as outsiders (Abrah, 2018). When a group of people or races are offended by specific labels such as drug traffickers and terrorists, they push themselves towards engaging in such behaviors. As society continues to treat them with the given titles, they later accept the labels. The reaction is triggered by the notion of response by others to the behavior of the individual or group (Abrah, 2018). The negative response from others tends to have adverse effects on this group of people, making them engage more with the labels. This theory is significant in explaining the increased crime activities that the blacks and Hispanics have been labelled with, which they later get incarcerated for engaging or just by a label.

Empirical evidence

Historical overview

Mass incarceration and racial profiling have been a long hierarchy in the United States even before the formation of the US nation. It was long involved with outrights denials, forced displacement, slavery and dehumanization of the Native Americans, immigrants having various ethnicities, and black people (Campbell, 2018). Despite the country facing multiple civil wars, America has never straightened the racial oppression that it had wrought. Despite the civil rights movement towards democracy in the USA, race has significantly remained the primary determinant of citizenship and the justice that one can be offered. Racial profiling has penetrated the nation’s bloodstream and has adversely affected society and even the criminal justice system. Segregation has sanctioned vigilantism, and attention has been focused on black people.

During World War II, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into confinement camps while the Italians and German American citizens were spared. Currently, there is an alarming rate of Latino immigrants caged in various detention facilities in the US and forcibly separated from their families (Campbell, 2018). Black Americans are also incarcerated and are subjected to the death penalty and solitary confinement. From the sociological perspective of racial hierarchy, social threats and crime are heavily geared by the hierarchy designed. It creates a boundary between empathy and trust between citizens as certain race is treated as incompatible with American values (Campbell, 2018). The criminal justice system in the US has exerted over control and use force to control the black population because they are viewed as a danger to the American culture and values.

Police Deviance, Corruption, and Control

Police are the gatekeepers within the criminal justice system. They are held accountable for discharging their duties in a manner that protects individuals against human rights violations within the confines of the criminal justice system (Albrecht, 2017). It is widely believed that police as law enforcement agents possess both integrity and honesty virtues and are obliged to uphold human rights standards and practices that guide them as they execute their duties. However, it is a matter of great concern that in as much as they are guarantors of an effective criminal justice system, they have also acted as principal sources of grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detention, and discrimination (Albrecht, 2017). On many occasions, they have failed to exercise their functions, powers, and duties impartially.

One such area is the wrongful convictions of suspects. Police misconduct leading to wrongful convictions occurs in a wide variety of forms which include but are not limited to false or coerced confessions, withholding evidence, and planting evidence. According to the National Registry of Exonerations (2017), as of 2016, there were a total of 166 recorded exonerations which was an increase from the preceding years. Corey (2013), in his study and reflection on two mass exonerations, that is, the Rampart and Tulia exonerations, identified police misconduct, and in particular, perjury as the primary cause for wrongful convictions.

Some of the ways through which perjury was committed included filing falsified reports and testifying detailed observations of criminal conduct in which the defendants never engaged. This was facilitated through physically planting contraband materials on the defendants or misstating that they had found contraband when they had not (Henry, 2018). The study focused on the Rampart and Tulia cases that met the actual innocence criteria utilized by other researchers in investigating known wrongful convictions. As a result, thirty-seven Tulia exonerees and thirty-eight Rampart exonerees met this criterion. The results also illustrated that guilty pleas are not shielded from the risk of wrongful conviction. This is because, in more than 80% of the pooled Rampart and Tulia cases, innocent defendants had pleaded guilty (Henry, 2018).

While the Rampart case in Corey’s study was based on “real crime, wrong perpetrator” convictions, there exists another sphere which is the “no-crime” convictions. No-crime convictions constitute cases where innocent individuals are convicted of crimes that never happened. Police misconduct also plays a significant role in no-crime convictions, and this is idealistically presented in the Tulia case (Henry, 2018). According to the National Registry of Exonerations (2017), there were 94 recorded exonerations in 2016, increasing over the years. Elsewhere, Henry (2018) conducted literature research that explored no-crime wrongful convictions as an individual and unique phenomenon. The article examined official misconduct in the element of police lies and aggressive policing tactics as one of the factors leading to no-crime wrongful convictions. Moreover, the article demonstrated instances where police fabricate evidence for personal career advancement, for personal monetary gain, or corporate gain. In the latter case, police are under substantial pressure to make arrests to raise revenues from fines.

The ‘noble-cause corruption’ phenomenon has also been identified as a source of police abuse. Using the privileges bestowed upon them, police officers, from time to time on perceiving a suspect to be guilty, may take steps to remove them from the streets and confine them unjustly. At the level of organizational culture, the weak enforcement of standard ethical codes that guide the conduct of police officers has resulted in corruption being entrenched in the police. It is, therefore, not surprising to find police officers unjustifiably pursuing low-level offenders and less serious criminal misconducts guided by the theory that offenders committing minor crimes may be caught committing more severe crimes for personal financial gain (Henry, 2018).

Police deviance, corruption, and control fall under the institutional realm that has influenced incarceration rates in the U.S. Police deviance is perceived to constitute corruption, misconduct, and crime that can broadly be categorized under individual and organizational factors. Under individual factors, research has identified self-control as a primary precursor to police deviance. Donner, Fridel, and Jennings (2016) examined the interrelationship between Gottfredson and Hirschi’s self-control theories and police deviance. The results obtained from 101 participants evidenced self-control in self-reported prior misconduct and the probability of being incorporated in future misconduct. This is also mirrored in Donner and Jennings (2014).

From the organizational perspective, variables such as organization type and size influence police misconduct. This is reflected in Huff, White, and Decker (2018) that examined police misconduct across agencies. The findings illustrated that the tribal agencies are associated with misconduct related to domestic violence and drug-related crimes. However, smaller agencies faced more misconduct allegations that revolved around supervisors. Last but not least, Bishopp, Worrall, and Piquero (2016) established a link between organizational stress and police misconduct. However, the results further demonstrated that deviance was determined by the distinct type of strain encountered.

Research also shows a relationship between police deviance environmental variables; in other words, the crime type. Eitle, D’Alessio, and Stolzenberg (2014) used the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (2009–2010) to examine the link between police organization, police misconduct, and environmental factors. The results identified violent crimes as the only environmental variable that promotes police deviance.

Research Gap

The above review of the literature shows that the police and corruption in the criminal justice system play a crucial role in increasing mass incarceration in the United States. However, limited research has focused on how the criminal justice system is dumb silent with increased activities of mass incarceration within the federal and state prisons. This research fills the gap on how the minority group in society are targeted and incarcerated by the criminal justice system.


Incarceration in the USA is something that has been happening since the late 19th century. The blacks and the Latinos are subjected to mistreatment by the police and the criminal justice system. Political, social, and economic institutions have been used to enact the mistreatment because they lack a spokesperson within the justice system who will be their voice. Research studies link incarceration with increased crime rates forced by the poverty levels that minority groups experience.

Research Methodology


This chapter provides the procedures and strategies used by the researcher in the collection, analysis, and presentation of the research findings. Taking into consideration that the research uses secondary sources to collect data, the methodology gives a description of the measures that were implemented to ensure that reliable articles are with a focus on the research problem are collected. The key sections covered by the chapter are research approach, ethical consideration, data collection, data analysis, validity and reliability, research method, research design, and limitations of the study. The main objective is the incarceration of Black and Hispanics in the USA.

Research Philosophy

The role of research philosophy in the study is to give insights into knowledge development through focusing on the beliefs concerning the way data was collected and analyzed. This research utilizes interpretivism, positivism, and pragmatism when conducting mixed research (Yilmaz, 2013). Despite the limitations of interpretivism, the research utilized it because the research problem requires in-depth analysis. The interpretivism in this study is used to identify the patterns and meanings of the data.

Research Approach

The approaches used in the collection and analysis of data are inductive and deductive. With the inductive method, the researcher collects information relevant to the research study and later identifies the themes and patterns followed by theory development (Fram, 2014). The theory is used to explain the patterns of data through data observation at the end of the research. The deductive research method usually begins with the identification and testing of theories. It has four stages which include, the identification of the existing theory, hypothesis formulation, and analysis of the research to either support or reject the hypothesis (Fram, 2014). The research utilizes the inductive approach to identify and analyze the data from the ten selected articles basing on the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Research Method

Data collection is done by using either qualitative or quantitative methods. Quantitative methods involve the collection of numerical data. The data is used to check the relationship between variables. The qualitative method is used to collect non-numerical data. This data is based on the experiences, attitudes, and feelings of the respondents. According to Taguchi (2018), the qualitative method is used in the collection of non-numerical data to enable the researchers to understand the views concerning the research problem. The qualitative method is flexible as it collects data pertaining to personal experience and is aimed to answer the research problem (Blanchflower, 2018). Despite the fact that qualitative analysis involves collecting data through focus groups, interviews and observation, secondary sources were preferred because of the nature of the research study and the current health conditions since the onset of COVID-19.

Research Design

The research design in this study is significant in ensuring that the data collected from the existing study is used to explain the research problem. The research problem, method of analysis, and the previous studies are used to identify the research design to be used. An exploratory design is used in this study to explain the research problem with a minimal solution to the research problem (White, 2018). It is advantageous because of its flexibility and adaptability to minimize time and the available resources.

Data Collection Procedures

Search Strategy

Relevant research study concerning the incarceration of the black and the Hispanic were collected. A total of ten articles were retrieved from the databases such as Books, science direct, Springer link, google scholar, and the university library. The search term implemented in searching the research study on the internet is mass incarceration, imprisonment, immigrants’ disparity, and jailing citizens in the US. The search term used to access the research articles are consistent with the research problem and the literature review.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

When accessing the research articles from the databases, ten sources were selected because of their credibility, and they were in line with the inclusion and exclusion criteria implemented. The primary research was given priority, and hence articles excluded were editorials, summaries, systematic reviews, and abstracts. The exclusion of the systematic reviews is because of the possibility of biasness in the publication of systematic reviews. Articles that used the primary method of data collection were given priority because of their validity and structure.

Table 1.0: Inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Inclusion Exclusion
Peer-reviewed journals
Studies published in the English language
Studies published by 2010 to 2020
Published literature
Article summaries
Unpublished literature
Studies published before 2010
Systematic reviews
Search strategy summary.
Figure 1.0: Search strategy summary.

Data Analysis

After the identification of the ten articles, data analysis was conducted through quantitative analysis and thematic analysis. Thematic analysis was employed because the data used is from secondary sources, and this method will help identify a consistent theme among various researchers (Castleberry & Nolen, 2018). The focus was given to ensure that the thematic analysis focuses on the objective and purpose of the research study. Quantitative data was analyzed using SPPS version 20, while the qualitative data was analyzed using NVIVO version 11.0.

Ethical Considerations

The major ethical consideration in the secondary research is the restriction posed to the accessibility and sharing of the information gathered from the internet. Researchers require permission to access various information on the internet (Haines, 2017). Information that was allowed to be accessed is the only one used to answer the research problem. To achieve this objective, articles from the internet were checked on their methodology, purpose, and accuracy of the materials. The authors of the materials were acknowledge to prevent issues such as plagiarism.

Validity, Reliability, and Generalizability

Validity and reliability are very crucial in ensuring that the outcomes of the research are credible. Validity is used to determine the accuracy and reliability of the data collected. Validity represents how trustworthy the data is, while reliability, on the other hand, represents the stability of the results (Cypress, 2017). Usage of validity and reliability in this study is important because it ensures transparency and reduces the chances of biasness during the collection of data implication. The objective of implementing validity and reliability is to ensure there is replicability. The research validity in this study was attained through the selection of research articles having different types of research designs and data collection methods (Rose & Johnson, 2020). On the other hand, reliability is obtained through verification of the materials basing on the context of the research problem.

Limitations of the Methodology

The research study relies on secondary sources of data collection, which is a limitation. Reliance on secondary sources impacts the research outcomes negatively as it affects the generalizability. There is a great challenge in accessing online articles because of the few available sources concerning the mass incarceration of blacks and Hispanics in the US.


This chapter provides the plan that was used by the researcher to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data collected. The mixed-method was used by the researcher during the collection of the analysis and interpretation of the results. Data used in this study was collected from the ten articles that were accessed from academic databases. The findings of the research are presented in the next chapter.

Results and Analysis


The study focuses on the incarceration among the blacks and Hispanics in the USA and how the criminal justice system is dumb silent as the inferior population is suffering from mental and psychological torture that they have been subjected to by society and the social institutions. This chapter provides the analysis of the ten articles that were selected based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Articles Reviewed

Ten articles were explicitly reviewed those that used mixed method or either one of the two methods (qualitative and quantitative method). Quantitative analysis was done on the data as well as thematic analysis. The main quantitative analysis identified in the study is that 80% of the black and Hispanic population have been subjected to incarceration. The main theme in qualitative analysis is the health problems that the incarcerated individuals experience because of imprisonment.

The incarceration rate in the US started rapidly in 1973, with significant growth. In 1972, approximately 172 US citizens per 100,000 population were incarcerated in jails and prisons. In 2007, the rate of incarceration increased to approximately 767 per 100,000 and declined a bit in 2012 to 707 per 100,000. The rate of incarceration in 2020 is 698 per 100,000 (Fornili, 2018). The United States has the highest rate of imprisonment than all over the world. From the bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the incarceration rate for the state and federal prisons between 1925 and 2012 has been increasing annually by 6 to 8%. In 2012, the percentage of incarceration in the USA was about 23% of the world’s total incarceration population per 100,000 people (Fornili, 2018).

Incarceration per 100,000 people in US.
Figure 1.0: Incarceration per 100,000 people in US.
Incarceration in the US compared to other countries.
Figure 2.0: Incarceration in the US compared to other countries.

From the research conducted by a group called RAND, the treatment of the white, black, and Hispanic in the US criminal justice system is portrayed to be utterly different from the way it is appearing. The group found out that the black defendant is usually treated very harshly when it comes to key points such as sentencing (Costello, 2010).


From the RAND group statistics, the African Americans arrested for violent crimes surpass more than a third of the population numbers. The number brings out key considerations, such as whether the disparity is from racial profiling (Scott, 2019). The survey later concluded in corresponding to the National Crime Victimization report that most police are constantly involved with discrimination when facing the members immigrants with racial minority such as the Black and Hispanic. African- Americans have high arrest disproportionality when it comes to crimes such as drug trafficking and possession. The percentage usage of blacks in the US is 12%, and their population is also 12% (Scott, 2019). However, when it comes to those arrested, their population constitutes a third of the total detained population. The results are directed from racial profiling that is currently high in the US. From the 1989 to 1991 statistics, 72% of the drivers who were stopped and arrested were black compared to 14% whites (Scott, 2019). The data from the same period shows that both the blacks and the whites had the same violation rate of traffic rules.

Plea Bargaining

From the 1990 study, whites were less incarcerated than blacks and Hispanic because of plea bargaining. This is because racial disparity was among the factors that favored the whites to have a reduced sentence through plea bargaining than the blacks and the Hispanics (Jahn et al., 2020). From the study conducted by San Jose News on 700,000 legal cases in California in a ten-year period, a third of whites who had no felony records had their charges reduced, while only a quarter of the blacks and Hispanics were successfully pleaded (Jahn et al., 2020). It also portrayed that most of the prosecutors and the judges are white, and more than sixty percent of the people arrested are non-white, which makes it difficult for them to be pleaded because of the prejudices in the criminal justice system.

Criminal justice system: corrections

The criminal justice system correctional branch involves a network of agencies that manage prisons and programs such as probation boards and parole in a given jurisdiction. Today, there are three million individuals in prison, far overtaking crime and population growth (Lappi-Seppälä, 2019). The number of people imprisoned increased roughly from half a million to 2.2 million between 1980 and 2015 (Lappi-Seppälä, 2019). The United States of America has almost 25% of the world’s prison population despite making up close to 5% of the global population. The Hispanics and the African Americans represent 32% of the United States population compared to 56% of the United States imprisoned population represented by Hispanics and African Americans (Lappi-Seppälä, 2019). African Americans constituted 34% of the total 6.8 million correctional population in the year 2014.

The rate at which African Americans are imprisoned is five times more than the whites, and African American women are detained twice as much as white women. 32% of the children arrested, 52% of the children had their cases waived to criminal court, and 42% of the children detained constituted African American children nationwide. 42% of the population constitutes African American children (Warde, 2012). 7% of the population of the United States represents adults under correctional supervision, which associates with one out of thirty-seven adults in the United States. The United States spent approximately 81 billion dollars on corrections in 2012 alone. In the last thirty years, Spending on jails and prisons has increased at thrice the rate of Spending on Pre-K-12 education since the prisons are overpopulated.

The imprisoned population has risen by 700% since 1970, and the rate of violent crime has decreased by almost 20% since 1991, whereas the number of individuals in jail has increased by 50% (Warde, 2012). Jail and prison populations would fall by 40% if the African Americans and Hispanics were imprisoned at the same rates as the whites. The current prison system spends 80 billion dollars on taxpayer dollars, accounting for the second growing category in the US state budgets

Jury Verdicts

According to Sheri Lynn Johnson, the race of the defendant is the determinant of the guilt. The law professor used simulation to prove his theory by which she concluded that white jurors were easily finding the black defendants guilty when compared to the white defendant despite the trial having the same evidence and same crime (Aizer & Doyle, 2015). She further identified the best way of dealing with prejudices in trials that will lead to high incarceration of the blacks is by missing the juries.

Compared to one out of seventeen white boys and one out of six Latino boys, one out of three black boys born today are expected to be sentenced to prison. The sentencing reform addresses the inequalities in sentencing as a result of the court’s due process. Delaware lawmakers, for instance, enacted Senate Bill 47, a measure that gets rid of geographic-based sentencing enhancements- “drug-free” school zones-that affect those living in rural areas disproportionately and are known to worsen racially different sentencing outcomes (Aizer & Doyle, 2015). Indiana, Utah, and New Jersey adopted legislation to scale back drug-free zone sentencing enhancements in recent years.

About 4 million African Americans and seventeen million white people reported in the 2015 national Survey on drug use and Health have used illicit drugs within the last month. The imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost six times that of whites, yet whites and African Americans use drugs at similar rates (Aizer & Doyle, 2015). There have been one thousand and nine hundred exonerations as of October 2016; of the wrongly accused, 47% were African American. From the statistics, 22% of the African American defendants are more likely to have convictions involving police misconduct, resulting in exoneration (Beckett, 2018).

Police brutality

The police have shot and killed 1,025 in the past year. In the United States, people shot and killed by the police lie between 900 people to 1100 people each year. Ninety-eight non-federal law enforcement officers have been arrested since 2005 in connection with fatal on-duty shootings (Westerbeck, 2019). However, only 35 of these officers have been convicted of a crime to date, mostly a lesser offence like negligent homicide or manslaughter instead of murder. During this period, only three officers have been sentenced to murder and have seen their sentences stand. Decided by a judge, nine were exonerated during a bench trial and another 22 during a jury trial (Westerbeck, 2019). A prosecutor or a judge dismissed ten other cases, and no true bill was returned from a grand jury in one case. There are twenty-one non-federal law enforcement officers with pending criminal cases for fatal shootings currently.

Jail incarceration rate of confined inmates in the United States in 2019, by race/Hispanic origin
Figure 1.0: Jail incarceration rate of confined inmates in the United States in 2019, by race/Hispanic origin (per 100,000 residents).

Effects of incarceration

The majority of prisons are at maximum capacity and have inhumane conditions, absence of proper measures to effectively respond to during national pandemics and states of emergencies, and labor exploitation even though the 13th amendment protects against unusual and cruel punishments (Torres et al., 2020). Compared to the general population, inmates are five times most probably to be infected by HIV. About 10% to 20% of prisoners suffer from severe mental illnesses that are mostly made worse during sentencing (Torres et al., 2020). Additionally, the formerly imprisoned also lose their rights due to their records: individuals on probation are not allowed to vote in 34 states, and a criminal conviction means never voting again in 12 states. Past imprisonment can also impact an individual’s ability to get a job or secure certain federal profits or benefits (Torres et al., 2020). The imprisonment or incarceration effects are felt mainly by communities and families of imprisoned people.

For every six black men who should be between twenty-five and fifty-four years old, more than one has disappeared from daily life. The main drivers behind their absence are early deaths and imprisonment or incarceration (Torres et al., 2020). Their absenteeism from the community removes taxpayers, workers, voters, and more. Some of the problems faced by children whose parents are involved in the criminal justice system include antisocial behavior, economic hardship, psychological strain, suspension, and expulsion from school. Partners of imprisoned persons suffer from financial hardship and depression.

COVID-19 and infectious diseases

The number of identified prison inmates COVID-19 cases are 68,000 and counting. In the United States, new COVID-19 cases have increased across hot spots even as day-to-day infection rates remained constant in the country. Since mid-May, there has been a 73% rise in COVID-19 cases, and the correction institutions are the five known largest clusters of COVID-19. As more protestors and demonstrators against police brutality are arrested, the number of infected cases will only increase. Compared to 22% of the general population, 22% of prisoners and 15% of jail inmates have HIV& AIDS, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, or other STDs; hence infectious diseases are highly concentrated in correctional facilities (Ojikutu et al., 2016; Akiyama et al., 2020).

Penal labor and prison industrial complex

The business model of private prisons is dependent on imprisoning more and more people. Hundreds of businesses or companies profit from penal labor, including some of the major companies. For-profit corporations employ 18% of federal prisoners and 7% of state prisoners (Beckett, 2018). In most penal labor, wages or salaries are equivalent to less than one dollar for every hour upon 12-hour workdays. For federal prisoners, the pay scale is twelve dollars to forty dollars for every hour. Prisoners in Texas are not paid for labor. In 2014, the Texas penal labor system managed was valued at 88.9 million dollars (Beckett, 2018). The approximated yearly value of jail and prison industrial output is 2 billion dollars.

Cycle of incarceration

Every year, 650,000 Americans return to their communities. Within a few years, approximately half of them will return to prison. Almost 50,000 legal restrictions against individuals having conviction records regularly block access to educational opportunities, jobs, and housing (Feeley, 2020). This contributes significantly to the increased interaction rate with the criminal justice system and the reimprisonment of individuals that have been released or freed from jail or prison (Feeley, 2020). A year after release, almost 75% of previously imprisoned individuals are still unemployed. The probability that a person will return to prison increases due to a lack of stable employment. Research has found that unemployment is the single most significant recidivism predictor.


The purpose of the study is to identify the levels of incarceration in the US and how the criminal justice system is silent as such activities are continuing within the US borders. Many Blacks and Hispanics are experiencing trauma as they are subjected to incarceration. The government law protects every citizen of the US, but the law enforcers use prejudices to enact the law and mistreat the minority group. From the incarceration cycle, the number of people expected to be incarcerated in the near future is likely to rise as the minority group continues to be excluded from criminal justice system favors.

Conclusion and Recommendations


The United States of America has the highest number of people incarcerated compared to any other country all over the world. Many people are detained because of their racial background. Despite the country enacting laws to help reduce the cases of incarcerations, blacks and Hispanics still face a lot of problems with law enforcers. Most of the people who have been incarcerated, whether in the federal or state prisons, have been imprisoned either wrongfully or through crimes that the whites could have been pleaded for. The number of the black and the Hispanic who have been incarcerated in The US is astonishing because the percentage is almost the total number of their population.

Immigrants face great difficulties, especially when facing the criminal justice system, which convicts people depending on racial factors. Many US citizens have trauma because of the enforcement that they were subjected to by their government. The juries, police, and institutions are using the power to mistreat the blacks and the Hispanics. Most of the studies covered in this analysis show that if two individuals have committed the same crime and the same evidence is provided to the jury, the white has a higher chance of not being proven guilty while the black individual will always be proven guilty.

Justice is determined by the color of the skin in the US, which is very astonishing as the country is the greatest pioneer of democracy. Democracy allows blacks and Hispanics to be incarcerated while whites are given a plea for their crimes. Furthermore, even in the wake of COVID-19, when the human race is supposed to be united and help the world fight the pandemic, incarceration in the US was at its peak. This shows that despite incarceration policies, the USA will always have incarcerations at any given time, especially when the economy is at its lowest.


The United States has to include education programs from early childhood that train the population on how to treat the minority group in the country despite having a different culture and race. Inclusivity is essential as even if US citizens are trained, actions will always portray a different vibe that will always trigger prejudices which later lead to the mass incarceration of the minority group such as the Blacks and the Hispanics. Furthermore, the criminal justice system has to be reestablished with policies that will help curb mass incarceration that targets a particular group of people in the community. Such policies include a plea for all the groups and hiring juries that are not racially biased.


Abrah, P. (2018). Labeling theory and life stories of juvenile delinquents transitioning into adulthood. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 63(2), 179-197. Web.

Aizer, A., & Doyle, J. (2015). Juvenile incarceration, human capital, and future crime: evidence from randomly assigned judges*. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(2), 759-803. Web.

Akiyama, M., Spaulding, A., & Rich, J. (2020). Flattening the curve for incarcerated populations Covid-19 in Jails and Prisons. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(22), 2075-2077. Web.

Albrecht, J. (2017). Understanding police deviance. Police Brutality, Misconduct, and Corruption, 3-8. Web.

Baker, R. S. (2015). Effects of immigrant legalization on crime. The American Economic Review, 105(5), 210-213. Web.

Beckett, K. (2018). The politics, promise, and peril of criminal justice reform in the context of mass incarceration. Annual Review of Criminology, 1(1), 235-259. Web.

Bishopp, S., Worrall, J., & Piquero, N. (2016). General strain and police misconduct: The role of organizational influence. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 39(4), 635-651.

Blanchflower, T. (2018). Leavy, P. (2017). Research design: quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, arts-based, and community-based participatory research approaches. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. ISBN 9781462514380. 300 pp. (Paperback). Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 47(1), 101-102. Web.

Bronson J., & Carson, E. (2019). Prisoners in 2017. NCJ 252156. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Web.

Burki, T. (2017). Incarceration and infection: drug policy in the USA. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 17(7), 697. Web.

Campbell, M. (2018). Varieties of Mass Incarceration: What We Learn From State Histories. Annual Review of Criminology, 1(1), 219-234. Web.

Castleberry, A., & Nolen, A. (2018). Thematic analysis of qualitative research data: Is it as easy as it sounds? Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 10(6), 807-815. Web.

Corey, R. (2013). Police misconduct as a cause of wrongful convictions. Washington University Law Review, 90(4), 1133-1189.

Costello, R. (2010). Mass incarceration is the New Jim Crow. Crime, Law and Social Change, 55(1), 53-55. Web.

Cypress, B. (2017). Rigor or Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Research. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 36(4), 253-263. Web.

Donner, C., & Jennings, W. (2014). Low self-control and police deviance: Applying Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory to officer misconduct. Police Quarterly, 17(3), 203-225.

Donner, C., Fridell, L., & Jennings, W. (2016). The relationship between self-control and police misconduct: A multi-agency study of first-line police supervisors. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 43(7), 841-882.

Eagly, A. (2017). From social psychology to the theory and practice of conflict resolution. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 23(2), 199-200. Web.

Eitle, D., D’Alessio, S., & Stolzenberg, L. (2014). The effect of organizational and environmental factors on police misconduct. Police Quarterly, 17(2), 103-126.

Feeley, M. (2020). Prisoners of politics: Breaking the cycle of mass incarceration. By Rachel elisebarkow. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2019. 291 pp. $35.00 hardcover. Law & Society Review, 54(3), 729-733. Web.

Fornili, K. (2018). Racialized Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 29(1), 65-72. Web.

Fram, S. (2014). When to use what research design. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(3), 322-324. Web.

Haines, D. (2017). Ethical considerations in qualitative case study research recruiting participants with profound intellectual disabilities. Research Ethics, 13(3-4), 219-232. Web.

Henry, J. (2018). Smoke but no fire: When innocent people are wrongly convicted of crimes that never happened. American Criminal Law Review, 55, 1-45.

Huff, J., White, M., & Decker, S. (2018). Organizational correlated of police deviance. Policing: An International Journal, 41(4), 465-481.

Jahn, J., Chen, J., Agénor, M., & Krieger, N. (2020). County-level jail incarceration and preterm birth among non-Hispanic Black and white U.S. women, 1999–2015. Social Science & Medicine, 250, 112856. Web.

Kazemi, A., Kennedy, C., Silverman, G., & Reich, N. (2019). Opioids in the USA: Disparities in addiction and incarceration. Significance, 16(5), 6-7. Web.

Lappi-Seppälä, T. (2019). Overuse of imprisonment: Statistical analyses of incarceration rates across the world. Overuse in the Criminal Justice System, 165-212. Web.

National Registry of Exonerations. (2017). Exonerations in 2016. Web.

Ojikutu, B., Srinivasan, S., Bogart, L., & Mayer, K. (2016). Mass Incarceration and Economic Inequality: The Impact of the Criminal Justice System on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Prevalence in the United States. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 3(suppl_1). Web.

Ousey, C., & Kubrin, E. (2017). Immigration and crime: Assessing a contentious issue. Annual Review of Criminology, 1(1), 63-84. Web.

Rose, J., & Johnson, C. (2020). Contextualizing reliability and validity in qualitative research: toward more rigorous and trustworthy qualitative social science in leisure research. Journal of Leisure Research, 51(4), 432-451. Web.

Scott, D. (2019). Connecting setting and subculture: A qualitative examination of violent incidents related to gangs, race, and other personal issues from the incarcerated youth perspective. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 56, 53-69. Web.

Taguchi, N. (2018). Description and explanation of pragmatic development: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research. System, 75, 23-32. Web.

Torres, C., D’Alessio, S., & Stolzenberg, L. (2020). The replacements: The effect of incarcerating drug offenders on first-time drug sales offending. Crime & Delinquency, 67(3), 449-471. Web.

Warde, B. (2012). Black male disproportionality in the criminal justice systems of the USA, Canada, and England: a Comparative Analysis of Incarceration. Journal of African American Studies, 17(4), 461-479. Web.

Westerbeck, R. (2019). Police brutality, over-policing, and mass incarceration in African American film. Journal of Black Studies, 51(3), 213-227. Web.

White, S. (2018). Conversation Analysis: An Introduction to Methodology, Data Collection, and Analysis. Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences, 1-20. Web.

Yilmaz, K. (2013). Comparison of quantitative and qualitative research traditions: epistemological, theoretical, and methodological differences. European Journal of Education, 48(2), 311-325. Web.

Cite this paper

Select style


DemoEssays. (2022, December 25). Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US. Retrieved from https://demoessays.com/racial-background-of-mass-incarceration-in-the-us/


DemoEssays. (2022, December 25). Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US. https://demoessays.com/racial-background-of-mass-incarceration-in-the-us/

Work Cited

"Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US." DemoEssays, 25 Dec. 2022, demoessays.com/racial-background-of-mass-incarceration-in-the-us/.


DemoEssays. (2022) 'Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US'. 25 December.


DemoEssays. 2022. "Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US." December 25, 2022. https://demoessays.com/racial-background-of-mass-incarceration-in-the-us/.

1. DemoEssays. "Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US." December 25, 2022. https://demoessays.com/racial-background-of-mass-incarceration-in-the-us/.


DemoEssays. "Racial Background of Mass Incarceration in the US." December 25, 2022. https://demoessays.com/racial-background-of-mass-incarceration-in-the-us/.