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New Study by the Justice Policy Institute Reveals Startling Racial Disparities in Maryland Prisons: African Americans Make Up 90% of Incarcerated Drug Offenders

23rd October 2003

The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, and leading out-of-state policymakers, responded in a chorus of outrage to a new report by the Justice Policy Institute that revealed startling racial disparities in Maryland's prison system. 

Among its findings, the report showed that while African Americans make up only 28% of Maryland's population, African Americans make up 68% of drug arrests, and 90% of people incarcerated for drug offenses.  Maryland ranked third nationally in the percentage of its incoming inmates incarcerated for drug offenses.  The increase in African American admissions to prisons for drug offenses was an astonishing 18 times greater than the increase in White drug offender admissions between 1986 and 1999.

The report finds that, as Maryland expanded its use of prison for drug offenses, African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the state's prison growth.  Between 1986 and 1999, more than 94% of the growth in drug prison admissions were African American prisoners.  Currently, drug offenders represent 24% of Maryland's prison population, up from only 5% in the mid 1980s.   The Justice Policy Institute reported that disparity in drug imprisonments is not explained by drug use, as national surveys show that Whites and African Americans report drug use and addiction at roughly the same rates 

Race and Incarceration in Maryland was authored by Vincent Schiraldi and Jason Ziedenberg of the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, DC.  The report is available on JPI's website.