Blacks More Likely to be Jailed in UK than in US

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Ben Cohen
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Some shocking statistics from a new report from the Human Rights Commission in the UK:

The proportion of black people in prison in England and Wales is higher than in the United States, a landmark report released today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission reveals.

The commission's first triennial report into the subject, How Fair is Britain, shows that the proportion of people of African-Caribbean and African descent incarcerated here is almost seven times greater to their share of the population. In the United States, the proportion of black prisoners to population is about four times greater.

I've had this argument many times with some of my more conservative friends who would argue simply that black people are more likely to commit crimes than white people. The premise is of course completely ridiculous. Unless black people are somehow genetically more inclined to commit crimes (and there aren't any vaguely serious studies that would support this notion), the reasons for their disproportionate incarceration must be economic and social.

The fact is, Britain and the US are societies with huge economic, racial and social divides. Both have incarceration rates far higher than comparable industrialized nations (the US being number one in the world), and both incarcerate minorities at a disproportionate rate. While there are certain links between poverty and crime (minorities are often poorer, so would conceivably be more likely to commit crimes), when it comes to incarceration, direct racism is also a huge factor. A study in New York City showed that blacks and Latinos were 9 times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites, but no more likely to be arrested.

This means that while minorities are not necessarily more likely to commit crimes, they are simply more likely to be caught or suspected of them.