Disproportionate Minority Confinement: A Historical Look at Racial Incarceration

26 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2010

Date Written: November 12, 2008


The incarceration of African Americans is not a phenomenon that occurred post the civil rights era but has been a practical fact of criminal justice administration since data on incarceration has been kept. Before crack cocaine and three strikes; before the war on drugs; before the war on poverty and the welfare state; before children born out of wedlock and the rise of single female head of households; before sentencing guidelines and getting tough on crime; before the world wars; and before the revolutionary war - African Americans have been disproportionately incarcerated in the United States. World and American history teaches us that the criminal justice system is not only an institution of retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation and incarceration (the four theories of punishment) but is an institution of social control. This paper will review the historical rise in the incarceration of African Americans in prisons as well as some of the key explanations and proposed solutions to disproportional minority confinement.

Keywords: disproportionate minority confinement, criminal justice, African American, incarceration, history of imprisonment

Suggested Citation

Garrison, Arthur H., Disproportionate Minority Confinement: A Historical Look at Racial Incarceration (November 12, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1530611 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1530611

Arthur H. Garrison (Contact Author)

Kutztown University ( email )

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