The Crisis of the Young African American Male and the Criminal Justice System

by Marc Mauer

Apr 1, 1999

African Americans are more likely to be victimized by crime and also to be under criminal justice supervision. This paper explores the current status of African-American males within the criminal justice system, assesses the factors that have created high levels of criminal justice control, and provides policy recommendations.
  • A variety of factors, including crime rates, law enforcement practices, and sentencing legislation, affect the degree of racial disparity in incarceration. Race and class, racial bias in the criminal justice system, and drug policies also have an effect.
  • Little analysis has been conducted on the unintended consequences of large-scale incarceration – e.g., its ability to deter crime, its impact on families and communities, and its effect on voting and collective political voice.
  • Harsh federal and state sentencing policies suggest that absent any change, the number and proportion of African-American males under the supervision of the criminal justice system is likely to increase over the next ten years and that racial disparities will grow even wider.
  • A framework for change includes jurisdictional commitment to reducing disparity; coordinated efforts by law enforcement prosecution, defense, judiciary, corrections, probation, and parole; and a focus on public safety.