Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Racial Dot Map of U.S. Prisons

The University of Virginia's Racial Dot Map is one of those maps which I find myself referring to over and over again. Nearly every time I see a geographical breakdown of social and economic conditions in the USA I find myself referring to the Racial Dot Map.

For example, The Opportunity Atlas allows you to see which neighborhoods in America offer children the best chance to rise out of poverty and in which neighborhoods kids are trapped by their upbringing. The map uses data from the lives of 20 million Americans, following them from childhood to their mid-30s, to show which neighborhoods offer the best opportunities for children.

The Racial Dot Map uses data from the 2010 US census to show the racial composition of every neighborhood in the USA. If you compare the Opportunity Atlas with the Racial Dot Map you can see a similar pattern repeated in towns and cities across the USA. Those neighborhoods where children have the most opportunity just happen to be mostly those neighborhoods with a large white population. Conversely those neighborhoods which seem to have offered very little in economic or educational opportunity are often those with the largest black populations.

Of course educational and economic opportunity aren't the only areas of American life which seem to be racially segregated. 25% of the world's prisoners are in American jails. America likes locking people up. It really like locking black people up. The NAACP reports that "African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites" in the USA. If you don't believe them you can always look at prisons on the Racial Dot Map.

This is exactly what Libby Jones did. After she kept stumbling upon small compact areas with predominately black populations in rural areas on the Racial Dot Map Libby discovered that correctional facilities are reasonably easy to determine on the University of Virginia's map. For example the screenshot above shows the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which is the largest maximum security prison in the United States. The prison shows up as an isolated area with a large black population on the Racial Dot Map. Libby has a number of other examples in her article The Most Sobering Thing about the Racial Dot Map.

We have already established that America is very fond of imprisoning its black citizens. However some states are more keen than others. You can explore further the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states in the Maps Mania post Unequal Under the Law.

No comments: