Monday, March 06, 2017

Slavery and the Modern Jail Population


The United States likes locking people up. According to the Prison Policy Initiative's report States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2016 "every state (in the USA) is more likely to incarcerate its residents than almost every other nation on the planet".  The NAACP reports that 25% 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 six times the rate of whites" in the USA.

There is also a geographical factor at play in the incarceration rates of the different states in the USA. 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.

In the Shape of Slavery The Pudding examines the number of slaves in Southern states before the Civil War, the black population across the United States over time and the number of prisoners in each state over time. Using these different map views it is possible to compare the rate of incarceration between Southern and Northern states.
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