Between 2011 and 2014, the number of black offenders entering North Carolina’s prisons declined almost 26 percent, and the number of Hispanics dropped 37 percent, surpassing the 15 percent admission rate for whites, according to a new report highlighting prison reforms in North Carolina, Georgia and Connecticut. The report was published by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a New York nonprofit dedicated to public safety.
During the same period, the number of blacks and Hispanics in North Carolina prisons fell 12 percent and 16 percent respectively, while the number of whites fell a little more than 1 percent.
The recent drop in prison population follows an enormous growth in the last four decades. Between 1970 and 2011, the number of inmates increased from 196,000 to more than 1.5 million, mostly affecting minorities. (In 2011, blacks and Hispanics, who represent three out of 10 people in the general population, comprised six out of 10 inmates.) According to a 2012 study by The Pew Charitable Trusts, people released from prison in 2009 had served 36 percent more time than those released in 1990.
Now that the numbers are beginning to decline, policymakers are asking what impact this trend is having on the racial composition of the prison population, which prompted the New York report.
In June 2011, North Carolina lawmakers passed legislation establishing incentives for inmates to participate in programs designed to reduce their likelihood of re-offending. The legislation also changed how people were supervised on probation and upon release from prison, increased access to treatment for people on supervision with substance use problems, and expanded probation and parole officers’ abilities to respond to violations of supervision.