SOC in the News: “The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons”

The print cover story for the New York Times on Sunday, Dec. 4th features an article on racial bias in New York’s  prison system

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Talk about high profile sociological research!

This article, titled, “The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisonby Michael Schwirtz, Michael Winerip, and Rober Gebeloff, is Part I of a series on racial bias in NY’s prison and parole systems. The second article can be read here, and is called “For Blacks Facing Parole in New York State, Signs of a Broken System.”

Below is an excerpt from the first article: 

…A review by The New York Times of tens of thousands of disciplinary cases against inmates in 2015, hundreds of pages of internal reports and three years of parole decisions found that racial disparities were embedded in the prison experience in New York.

In most prisons, blacks and Latinos were disciplined at higher rates than whites — in some cases twice as often, the analysis found. They were also sent to solitary confinement more frequently and for longer durations. At Clinton, a prison near the Canadian border where only one of the 998 guards is African-American, black inmates were nearly four times as likely to be sent to isolation as whites, and they were held there for an average of 125 days, compared with 90 days for whites.

A greater share of black inmates are in prison for violent offenses, and minority inmates are disproportionately younger, factors that could explain why an inmate would be more likely to break prison rules, state officials said. But even after accounting for these elements, the disparities in discipline persisted, The Times found…

…The degree of racial inequity and its impact in the prison system as documented by The Times have rarely, if ever, been investigated. Nor are these issues systematically tracked by state officials. But for black inmates, what happens inside can be profoundly damaging.

Bias in prison discipline has a ripple effect — it prevents access to jobs and to educational and therapeutic programs, diminishing an inmate’s chances of being paroled. And each denial is likely to mean two more years behind bars… Read more on The New York Times here!

Photo Credit: Caleb Kenna for the New York Times
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