why do some states have higher mass incarceration than others? comment on pamela oliver’s blog
Over at Race, Politics, and Justice, Pamela Oliver asks why her home state of Wisconsin has such high rates of Black imprisonment in comparison to other states, even in times when rates are falling:
Wisconsin has stayed at the top of the pile in Black incarceration even though its Black incarceration rate has been declining. How can this be? The answer is that all the other states have been declining faster. By putting a scatter plot of state imprisonment rates on consistent axes, I’ve been able to produce a really cool animation effect. The data source is the\ National Corrections Reporting Program public “in custody” file. Rates are calculation on entire population (all ages). States voluntarily participate in this data collection program and appear and disappear from the plot depending on whether they reported for the appropriate year. States are also eliminated if more than 10% of their inmates are recorded as having unknown race. You’ll see if watch long enough that the relative positions of most states stay the same, but the whole distribution starts moving downward (lower Black incarceration rates) and to the left (lower White incarceration rates) in the last few years. You may download both these images and explanatory material in PDF format using this link.
Interesting. This is a classic example of the “dog that didn’t bark.” What happened in other states that did not happen in Wisconsin? A few hypotheses: Wisconsin reflects particularly bad conditions in segregated places like Milwaukee; fixed effects of prosecutors – Wisconsin district attorney’s are notoriously bad; police enforcement is unusually harsh. Add your hypotheses or explanation in the comments.