Demographic Trends In Incarceration Term Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Race Type: Term Paper Paper: #41411954 Related Topics: Female Prisons, Correctional Officers, Prison Gangs, Title Vii
Excerpt from Term Paper :

¶ … Race, Class and Gender and Correctional Settings

Today, the United States incarcerates more than 25% of low-income young black males, so it is reasonable to suggest that there is an inextricable relationship between race, socioeconomic class and gender and the institutional correctional community. It is also reasonable to suggest that this relationship has a corresponding impact on clients, staff and the administration of correctional institutions. To determine the facts, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature to identify the role of race, class and gender within the institutional correctional community and the impact of these variables on clients, staff, and administration. Finally, an analysis concerning the impact of race, class, and gender on current correctional institutions is followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning the relationship between race, class and gender within the institutional correctional community in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

The role of race, class, and gender within the institutional correctional community

There are some reciprocating factors involved in the analysis of the role of race, class and gender within the American institutional correctional community, wherein prisoners have an impact on staff and correctional institutions and vice versa. For example, on the one hand, the institutional correctional community plays an important role in shaping a significant percentage of American society through the manner in which prisoners are incarcerated, and the larger American society following their eventual release (assuming they are eligible). For instance, Vitulli (2010) reports that, "The criminal justice system and prison system play a central role in the production of race, citizenship, gender, and sexuality in the contemporary United States" (p. 53). Because a disproportionate percentage of prisoners in the United States are minority members, especially African-Americans, it is clear that the prison system plays a significant role in the socialization of millions of incarcerated Americans today. As Vitulli points out, "With over two million people in U.S. jails and prisons and over seven million people under U.S. correctional supervision -- well over half of whom are people of color, the criminal justice system is an important site of U.S. social formation" (p. 54).

On the other hand, another major role played by the variables race, class and gender within the institutional correctional community has been to swell the populations of male minority members in general and African-American males in particular. The legacy of racism as a lingering aftereffect of slavery in the United States continues to raise its ugly head as evinced by the nationwide outpouring of outrage over the spate of recent fatal shootings of young black men by law enforcement authorities, despite clear-cut evidence that these officers were acting in self-defense. Indeed, even the perception of foul play by anyone in authority can result in allegations of racism, so American correctional institutions are faced with a fine line in administering minority populations which have swelled in recent years. In this regard, Mauer advises that, "By the early twenty-first century, the number of African-Americans within the criminal justice system had reached unprecedented levels. Nearly half of the inmates in the nation's prisons were African-American, compared to their 13% share of the population" (2006, p. 137).

This incarceration rate meant that one out of every 14 adult African-American males was incarcerated on any given day in the United States at the fin de siecle (Mauer, 2006). For young black men, the prospects were even grimmer. For instance, for the African-American male group aged between 20 and 29 years, nearly 25% was involved in the criminal justice system in some capacity (e.g., imprisoned, in jail, on parole or probation) in 1989 (Mauer, 2006). Just 6 years later, a follow-up study determined that the percentage had grown to nearly 33%, and black males who were born in 2001 had a 32% chance of being incarcerated during their lives at some point versus 17% for Hispanic males and 6% for while males (Mauer, 2006).

This disproportionate percentage of incarcerated African-American males is attributable in part to the higher arrest rates that have historically been experienced by this population. For example, Mauer (2006) points out that during a period when actual drug use was on the decline nationwide, the percentage of young black men arrested for drug-related charges increased from 21% in 1980 to 36% in...


Despite this modest decline, Grusky (2014) emphasizes that, "By the early 2000s, prison time was a common life event for this group, and today more than two-thirds of African-American male dropouts are expected to serve time in state or federal prison" (p. 438).

It remains unclear whether these higher arrest levels were due to racial profiling or otherwise, but the studies conducted concerning these inordinately high percentages indicated that African-American households did not use drugs any more frequently than any other demographic segment in the United States during these periods of time (Mauer, 2006). According to Parker (2008), the majority of explanations that have been advanced to date to account for the higher incarceration rates for minority members in general and African-Americans in particular have examined the role of the law enforcement community and increased emphasis on violent crime but have not differentiated between race, gender and class (Parker, 2008). In this regard, Parker points out that, "Most explanations to date are given without consideration of race and gender differences in crime trends, when we know that the duration and degree of the crime drop differs greatly for distinct groups" (2008, p. 29). Not surprisingly, these disproportionate demographic trends in incarceration have had a concomitant impact on the clients themselves as well as the staff and administration of institutional correctional facilities, and these issues are discussed further below.

The impact of race, class, and gender on clients, staff, and administration

The disproportionately high incarceration rates for minority groups in general and young African-American males in particular have had an enormous impact on their relationship to the larger American society as well as the institutional corrections facilities that are tasked with their custody. Indeed, Grusky (2014) emphasizes that, "These demographic contours of mass imprisonment have created a new class of social outsiders whose relationship to the state and society is wholly different from the rest of the population" (p. 438). Because they are social outsiders within the larger population, it is little wonder that many minority members seek out protection through gang membership after they are incarcerated. As Grusky points out, "The social and economic effects of incarceration create a discrete social group whose collective experience is so distinctive yet unknown that their disadvantage remains largely beyond the apprehension of public policy or public conversation" (2014, p. 438).

Likewise, Horton (2013) cites the increasing compartmentalization of races in prisons into gangs as being an impact of race and gender. For example, Williams (2014) notes that, "Anyone who watches 'Lockdown' on television will see gross racial segregation in prisons where prisoners are housed by race. Colored signs have hung above living quarters -- for example, blue for black inmates, white for white, red, green or pink for Hispanic, and yellow for others. Sometimes inmate yard times are racially segregated" (p. 37). In fact, it would appear that maintaining racial segregation in the nation's prisons is a pragmatic response to an otherwise untenable situation, but the implications of these racial policies on the inmates themselves can be much more severe than prison authorities might believe (Williams, 2014). In this regard, Horton reports that there is a "relationship between violence, norms, and culture as former inmates perceive it and issues of racial segregation, gangs, prison sex and rape, and interpersonal conflict among inmates more generally" (p. 109). Although gang membership and gang-related violence are frequently associated strictly with male prisoners, Horton (2013) also emphasizes that men and women alike can become serious management problems for prison staff. For example, Horton adds that, "Both male and female inmates as active agents who try to control their environment by curbing the disruptive behavior of others, sometimes with the use of violence" (2013, p. 108).

In fact, for all intents and purposes, prison life is as close to living on another and very hostile planet as possible for both men and women of any race or class in American society today. Not only are many minority group members and women from disadvantaged backgrounds and impoverished living conditions, this marginalization is further exacerbated when they are incarcerated. For instance, Grusky reports that, "Social marginality is deepened by the inequalities produced by incarceration. Workers with prison records experience significant declines in earnings and employment" (2014, p. 438). Likewise, imprisoned parents of both genders are at much higher risk of getting a divorce, and children of imprisoned parents are exposed to the rigors of prison life during visits or through witnessing the ordeals a parent goes through on parole or probation (Grusky, 2014). The overwhelming majority of Americans, though, are simply unaware of what the conditions are like in a typical prison and these issues remain largely…

Sources Used in Documents:


Assigning inmates to prison. (2014). North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Retrieved from

Camp, S.D. & Steiger, T.L. Gender and racial differences in perceptions of career opportunities and the work environment in a traditionally white, male occupation:

Correctional workers in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In N.A. Jackson (ed.).

Contemporary issues in criminal justice: Shaping tomorrow's system, pp. 258-277,
Female offenders. (2014). U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved from / inmates/custody_and_care/female_offenders.jsp.

Cite this Document:

"Demographic Trends In Incarceration" (2014, December 19) Retrieved January 20, 2022, from

"Demographic Trends In Incarceration" 19 December 2014. Web.20 January. 2022. <>

"Demographic Trends In Incarceration", 19 December 2014, Accessed.20 January. 2022,

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