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Minority Issues
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 04/20/2020

Prisoner g Our topic this month is Minority Issues and I thought I would expand on this with some comments concerning the Coronavirus. For the Minority Issues component, I identified several resources to consider and will include some data. Instead of providing pie charts, I provided the reference and strongly suggest you review them. This will illustrate some of the data selected. The first area I chose to discuss has some ‘eye opener’ data. The following article was written by Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner, March 24, 2020. Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020.

Prison Policy Initiative. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

Areas reviewed were the number of offenders incarcerated in prisons and jails for the following: Public Order; Drugs; Property; Violent Crimes; Technical Violations; and Pretrial Detention. There are additional areas to consider, due to article limitations, please click on the above resource. Now let's consider the following and try to put some of this data in perspective.

“1 in 5 incarcerated people is locked up for drug offense.”
“Over 550,000 people are locked up who haven’t even been convicted or sentenced.” The main reason for this is they cannot afford the bail ‘to secure their release.’ Along with this, the “median bail amount for felonies is $10,000, 8 months income typical person detained because they can’t pay the bail.” The reason these areas are important is because a large percentage of these individuals are minorities.

I provided below a chart identifying the inmate population in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.


Race # of Inmates % of Inmates
Asian 2,652 1.5%
Black 65,527 37.5%
Native American 4,094 2.3%
White 102,449 58.6%

Some interesting data as you can see. To follow up on this, please go to the resource provided to extract additional information. For comparison, I selected the below chart identifying the ‘Number of Blacks in State Prison Declines as White/Hispanic Populations Grow.

Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016
April 2018, NCJ 251211

The study covered the time period from 2000 thru 2016. There are a variety of reasons for this contributed to various crime bills and other initiatives. I included some additional information below for this topic.

The gap between the number of blacks and whites in prison is shrinking


Blacks have long outnumbered whites in U.S. prisons. But a significant decline in the number of black prisoners has steadily narrowed the gap over the past decade, according to new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. If you are not familiar with this site, I strongly suggest you access and become familiar with the resource. You can bookmark the site.

In addition the summary provided is informative and encourages review of the data.

“For all three of these groups, imprisonment rates have declined substantially since 2007. The rate has declined 31% among blacks, 14% among whites and 25% among Hispanics. Experts have offered a range of explanations for the pronounced drop in the black imprisonment rate.”

Needless to say, the Coronavirus has disrupted our lives. Not only at home, but in our careers. Each day we learn more and more about this pandemic. Since we are in corrections; we have to be concerned with effects from the pandemic on staff and the inmate population. In recent days we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of cases throughout our prisons. Especially effects on the African American population, not only in our communities but in corrections as well. Some early information and reasons for this are age, chronic conditions, substance use, and other. Research is ongoing and trying to find additional reasons why the pandemic seems to affect some races more than others.

Meanwhile, we can only imagine the additional strain and stress on our officers, inmates, their families, and resources. Some states have looked at early release considerations, addition of tele-med, additional safety and security concerns, social distancing, and many other areas. This is for real and we have to learn from this and be prepared to deal with this currently and other pandemics in the foreseeable future. As professionals continue to inform us, this has not peaked in all areas. We must continue to communicate and be professional and ethical during these times. Do not lose faith and try to stay current with updates occurring several times daily. This is not only for yourself but your family as well.

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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