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Blacks Likely to Spend More Time In Jail

Blacks Likely To Spend More Time In Jail

Without sentencing guidelines, employed blacks are almost six times as likely as their white counterparts to face jail for drug crimes, a new Florida State University (FSU) study says. The study by FSU criminology Professor Theodore Chiricos also found that young unemployed blacks serve jail time more often than older employed whites or blacks, even for the same crime.

"Being unemployed is more of an indicator than being black in terms of whether someone is incarcerated," said Chiricos. "But being both black and unemployed is more of an indicator that simply being unemployed."

Chiricos studied incarceration rates for 1,480 felons and 490 misdemeanats in two Florida counties in 1982, just prior to the implementation of state guidelines to standardize sentences. The study analyzed actual jail time served, both before trial and after conviction.

For all crimes combined, employed blacks were 1.5 time as likely as employed whites to serve jail time before trial. Unemployed blacks were five times as likely, while unemployed whites were only three times as likely, to spend time in jail than employed whites.

The study found that after conviction employed blacks found guilty of drug crimes were sent to jail 5.9 percent times more often than employed whites. "That means that blacks were 590 percent more likely to go to jail for the same drug offense as whites," Chiricos said.

Dr. Chiricos' can be reached at the Department of Criminology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306.

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