[Pnews] Prison Segregation and Racial Disparities

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 4 10:42:29 EST 2013

    Prison Segregation and Racial Disparities

by Solitary Watch Guest Author <http://solitarywatch.com/?author=14>

            Guest Post by Margo Schlanger

/Margo Schlanger is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law 
School. The following post is based on an article that appeared in the 
/Michigan Journal of Race & Law/ (see link below). The article was 
presented as introduction to a symposium held at the University of 
Michigan Law School in February 2013,/ Inhumane and Ineffective: 
Solitary Confinement in Michigan and Beyond.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

There is remarkably little systematic information available about who is 
held in segregated confinement in our nation’s prisons and jails.  I 
recently pulled together what little quantitative data exist.  What I 
found is preliminary, but it suggests that in many states the harsh 
conditions of solitary confinement are probably disproportionately 
affecting prisoners of color.  Full details on sources, methodology, 
etc. are available in Margo Schlanger, /Prison Segregation: Symposium 
Introduction and Preliminary Data on Racial Disparities/ 
<http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2237979>, 118 Mich. 
J. Race & Law 241 (2013).

The best sources of demographic information about prisoners are the 
various surveys and censuses conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice 
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). While no BJS publication directly 
addresses the issue, and no BJS dataset allows its full analysis, it is 
possible to glean something from the most recent BJS prison census, the 
2005 Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities 
<http://dx.doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR24642.v2>. I present in the Table that 
follows data derived from that census for seven state facilities. I also 
include, for comprehensiveness, information from a 2012 NYCLU report 
<http://www.nyclu.org/files/publications/nyclu_boxedin_FINAL.pdf>on New 
York supermax confinement. (Even so, the table covers only a very small 
portion of the nation’s tens of thousands of supermax prisoners.)


The table includes all the facilities in the 2005 BJS prison census that 
meet all the following criteria:

    * Reported physical security as “supermax.”
    * Reported 80 percent or higher share of facility prisoners as
      housed in maximum (or higher) custody.
    * Provided demographic data for 95 percent or more of prisoners.

Given the limited available information, the table is merely 
suggestive—but it does support a working hypothesis of current 
racialized impact for isolated confinement. In four of the eight columns 
(Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York), non-white prisoners are 
substantially overrepresented in the highlighted facilities; statistical 
testing confirms that the difference is statistically significant. (In 
three of the other four—Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island—the 
small overrepresentation is not statistically significant; likewise, the 
tiny proportion of underrepresentation in Maryland lacks statistical 

Of course evidence of disproportion does not demonstrate racial 
discrimination; it is possible that whatever disproportion exists has 
other explanations. But whether or not the source is detectable bias, 
the demographic impact of supermax and similarly isolated custody seems 
to me worthy of analysis. In short, it seems high time for corrections 
researchers to more systematically examine race in this area. American 
jails and prisons are themselves vastly racially skewed in their 
populations, and what we are likely to find is an even more extreme skew 
for those who are on the receiving end of isolated confinement’s harsh 

*Solitary Watch Guest Author <http://solitarywatch.com/?author=14>* | 
November 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm | URL: http://wp.me/p2HYoj-2Xe

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