Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stats of a different kind

In his book, New Ways to Kill Your MotherColm Tóibín has a chapter on the writer, James Baldwin. On page 314, in relation to Baldwin's concerns about the experiences of black people in America, and the ongoing racial blindness between white and black, he notes the following statistics (which are a little date, but have doubtless worsened rather than improved):


At the end of 2005, there were close 2.2 million prisoners in federal, state or local jails in the United States.  Three thousand one hundred and forty-five black men out of every 100,000 lived as sentenced prisoners, compared to 471 white male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 white males; this compares to an estimated 3,000 out of every 100,000 members of the population of Russia who were in jail during Stalin's reign. 


As of 2006, seven million people in the United States were behind bars, on probation or on parole.  The United States has 5 per cent of the world's population and 25 per cent of its prisoners.  737 per 100,000 compared to 100 n Australia and 50 in Norway and 37 in Japan and 29 in Iceland and India. England and Wales, with roughly the same crime rate as the United States, have 149 per 100,000 in prison.  


A report from the Justice Department estimated that 12 per cent of American black men in their twenties and early thirties are in jail now, compared to 1.6 per cent of white males of the same age group.  The general prison numbers in the United States have double since 1990. 


Incidentally, Tóibín's book is primarily about writers and their families, not about crime and black people.  
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