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Andrew Sullivan links to sociologist Lisa Wade who notices a difference in the racial distribution between private prisons and public prisons. The goal here, it would seem, is to tie capitalism to white supremacy and racism. Wade writes:
This is a deeply unethical system and new research shows that, in addition to being disproportionately incarcerated, racial minorities and immigrants are disproportionately housed in private prisons. Looking at three states with some of the largest prison populations — California, Texas, and Arizona – graduate student Christopher Petrella reports that racial minorities are over-represented in private prisons by an additional 12%; his colleague, Josh Begley, put together [the above] infographic.
Given what we know about the demographic skew of violent criminals versus other types of criminals (more blacks and Hispanics commit more of it even compared to other types of crime), it’s important to find out what types of criminals are housed in private and public institutions.
At Business Insider, Joe Weisenthal did just that:
So the question is: How does the private prison population compare to the prison population as a whole?
It’s not that different. but it seems a bit more skewed towards violent offenders.
Violent criminals in private prisons made up about 52% of all prisoners. About 75% of private prisoners fell into the categories of robbery, assault, burglary, murder, kidnapping, and sexual offenses. Of those, burglary is not considered a violent crime. Around 36% of public prisoners are in jail for property or drug offenses (18% for property and 18% for drug). In public prisons, drug offenders make up 11% of total population and property offenders make up 14% (not counting burglary).
It would seem, even dropping imprisoned burglars, that there is a substantial difference in the offenses of the criminals housed at these different prison types.
The next question concerns the distribution of criminal offending within each racial group. If whites in prison are there for less violent crimes, then we’d expect a higher proportion of whites in institutions that tend to house less violent criminals. The data shows a difference here as well. According to the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 49.5% of white prisoners were convicted of violent crimes. The ratio is 55.2% and 56.7% for blacks and Hispanics, respectively. For property and drug offenses, 38.4% of whites, 35.1% of blacks, and 31% of Hispanics are imprisoned for those types of crimes. These numbers seem to line up with the disparity reported in the initial infographic. A 5% difference in private-public imprisonment of minorities can mostly (or completely) be explained by differences in the distributions of the criminal profiles of the different races.
So the hit-job on private prisons – which is an attempt to tie capitalism to white supremacy – fails to make its case.