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Race of Prisoners Admitted to State and Federal Institutions, 1926-86

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 1992
This report documents the racial composition of U.S. inmates in Federal and State Institutions from 1926, when the Federal Government began keeping detailed annual records on prison admissions, through 1986, the latest year of available data.

A major trend shown in the statistics is the long-term growth in the size of the black prison population. From 1926 through 1986 the recorded black percentage among admissions to State and Federal prisons more than doubled, from 21 percent in 1926 to 44 percent in 1986. This growth cannot be explained by general population trends. The number of blacks relative to the general population was about the same in both years, 10 percent in 1926 and 12 percent in 1986. The recorded number of black inmates in 1986 was nearly nine times larger than the number recorded in 1926 (80,814 in 1986 versus 9,292 in 1926); the recorded number of white prisoners was three times larger (100,874 in 1986 versus 33,626 in 1926), and the number of other races was five times larger (2,081 versus 410). When estimates for missing States (eight in 1926 and 14 in 1986), for missing records, and for incomplete records are added to recorded figures for 1926 and 1986, results still show an eightfold increase in the number of black inmates. 7 tables

Date Published: May 1, 1992