Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Locking Them Up

The state of Florida likes to lock people up. In fact if you live in Florida you have over twice as much chance of being thrown in jail or prison as someone who lives in North Dakota. You can double your chances again by being black. Florida loves locking-up African Americans.

Vera's Incarceration Rates interactive map visualizes the jail and prison populations for every U.S. county. The map allows you to explore how local incarceration rates have changed over time by providing data about jail and prison incarceration rates for every year since 1970.

The map provides bivariate choropleth views of incarceration rates at both state and county level. You can explore the prison and jail incarceration rates for individual states and counties in much more detail by selecting them on the map and and then clicking the 'full profile' option. After selecting a country or state you can view the demographics of the prison and jail population over time. This allows you to explore in more detail the racial and gender mix of incarceration rates for the selected state or county and how this has changed over time since 1970.

You might have noticed in the Incarceration Rates map that the southern states have very high rates of incarceration. We've already touched on the main reason for that - they like to lock-up African Americans. Last year The Pudding explored the legacy of slavery on modern incarceration rates in the United States. The Pudding's The Shape of Slavery allows you to view the 1860 distribution of slaves in the southern states alongside present day incarceration rates in each state.

The NAACP reports that 21% of the entire world's prison population is living in American jails. This propensity to lock up its citizens affects African Americans more than most other Americans. The NAACP says that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of white Americans.

There is a geographical factor at play in these incarceration rates. The Prison Policy Initiative states that "the South has consistently had a higher rate of incarceration than the other regions of the United States". The Pudding decided to explore if there was any connection between the high rate of incarceration in southern states and the legacy of slavery. By mapping 150 years of census and incarceration data they wanted to see if historic incarceration rates differ between the former slave states and the non-slave states of the north.

They do. The Pudding concludes that "we still see the shadow of the undeniable, institutionalized, strategic racism of the 100 years after the Civil War".

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