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Minority Issues
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 07/22/2019

Bridginggap Our corrections.com topic for the month of July is ‘Minority Issues.’ There are many challenges corrections face in managing minority populations. This includes challenges minority practitioners encounter. Each area I selected can be a separate topic itself.

These are some of the challenges to consider and this is not a conclusive list:

  • Staff Ethnicity/Race
  • Re-entry Challenges
  • Security Level Offender
  • Medical, Mental Health, and Offender Age
  • Lower Incarceration Rates
  • Ethnicity of Offenders
  • Other Programming Needs
  • Increase in Gender Offenders (Some States)
  • Vacant Positions
  • Resources
  • Drug/Violent Offenses
  • Suggested Readings
  • Other

    I tried to capture information for staff working in corrections. This includes uniform and non-uniform personnel; prisons, jails, probation, and parole; and a break-down of incarcerated offenders by race and gender; and re-entry challenges.

    The first area I looked at was Staff/Ethnicity/Race in the Bureau of Prisons. I selected this system, due to all states having separate statistics. You can review the statistics below and compare to your own state.

    Gender # Of Staff % Of Staff
    Male 25,747 72.7%
    Female 9,918 27.3%
    Ethnicity/Race # of Staff % of Staff
    African Americans  7,659 21.5%
    Asian 798 2.2%
    Hispanic 4,360 12.2%
    White (Non-Hispanic) 22,384 62.8%
    Other 5 0%

    Note: These numbers are at the end of June 2019
    Bureau of Prisons: Staff Ethnicity/Race

    Yes, there are other factors to consider when comparing male and female staff. These include the number of vacant positions, any gender specific positions, promotion opportunities by race/gender, training needs, etc.

    The next area to discuss pertains to ‘re-entry challenges.’ This includes challenges while incarcerated and when released. First though, we need to consider the following information form the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005: Offenders are released from prison and “three-quarters of them are rearrested within five years of their release.” A variety of research and data results was compiled by Melissa Li, From prisons to communities: Confronting re-entry challenges and social inequality.

    I selected some areas from this article to highlight and recommend you review her article. Re-entry itself is challenging for the majority of all offenders released. Many lack basic job skills and have minimum education requirements. These offenders are labeled as being convicted felons and this presents additional challenges. Many employers are reluctant to hire these individuals due to the ‘stigma of incarceration and lack of employment history.’ Also, some employment opportunities require licensure and/or other requirements. Some things we often do not consider with convicted offenders are ’public housing assistance and social services’ and that offenders with ‘past drug or felony convictions are ineligible for public housing.’ We also know from research, the first month of release is critical and reinforces why a strong support system upon release must be in place.

    Many states’ correctional systems provide adult education, special education, drug/alcohol treatment programs, a variety of counseling services, vocational education, and other. This is also important upon release with opportunities to continue counseling and other programming needs. Something I would like to see in place is some type of pre-release program for all offenders prior to release review. This then needs to be available for follow up and support in the community.

    The final area I want to focus on is “Prisoners in 2017,” (April 2019 NCJ 252156).

    In 2017, there were approximately 1.5 million prisoners in state and federal correctional facilities. Approximately one-half of prisoners were ‘serving sentences for violent crimes and approximately one-half of federal prisoners were serving a drug-trafficking offense.’ At the end of December 2016 there were ‘6,613,500 persons supervised by U.S. adult and correctional systems, about 62,700 fewer persons than on January 1, 2016.’ (This included prisons, jails, probation, and parole).

    Some suggested areas to focus on are:
    Table 4: Sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities by sex, 2016 and 2017.
    Table 5: Imprisonment rates of sentenced prisoners under jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities, by jurisdiction and demographic characteristics.
    Table 7: Admission and releases of sentenced prisoners under jurisdiction of state of federal correctional authorities.
    Demographic characteristics among sentenced prisoners
    Non-U.S. Citizens
    Prisoners held in local jails
    Table 8: Percent of sentenced prisoners under jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities, by sex, race, Hispanic origin and age.
    Table 10: Non-U.S. citizen prisoners in the custody of publicly or privately operated federal or state prisons, not including jails, by sex.
    Appendix Table 2: Prisoners under jurisdiction of state of federal correctional authorities, by race and Hispanic origin.

    I provided the above article content for further review. If you take time to read the entire report, you should find this informative. This also allows you to review each state and to compare and contrast information. While reading the article and my prior comments, take the time to see what your agency is doing to try and assist offenders for release.
    Unfortunately, many agencies have many staff vacancies and continue to face inadequate funding. Even with these additional challenges in place, we can remain proactive and develop ways to deal with the many challenges faced by corrections on a daily basis.

    Thanks and stay safe out there.

    Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

    Other articles by Campbell

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