University of Georgia Led Study Examines Huge Racial Disparity in Felony Convictions

A new study led by Sarah Shannon, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Georgia, documents the vast racial disparities in criminal justice in the United States. The research determined that as of 2010, 3 percent of the total U.S. population had spent some time in prison. But African American men were five times as likely as the general population to have served time in prison.

The study also found that 8 percent of the overall population had been convicted of a felony at some point in their lives. But the rate for African American men is 33 percent.

Dr. Shannon notes that the U.S. does not maintain a registry of data on people with felony convictions. She states that  “there’s been a great deal of scholarly and policy attention toward incarceration, and rightfully so. But the larger population who also have felony convictions face many of the same types of stigma that come with having been incarcerated – lack of access to jobs, lack of access to housing and welfare support – without necessarily having had the experience of spending time behind bars.”

The study, “The Growth, Scope, and Spatial Distribution of People With Felony Records in the United States, 1948-2010,” was published in the October issue of the journal Demography. It may be accessed here.

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