COVID prison releases expose key driver of racial inequity

Tuesday, June 6, 2023 - 11:03 in Health & Medicine

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. experienced a historic reduction in prison population as admissions declined and many incarcerated people were released — both routinely and as part of state and federal public health strategies to decrease spread of the virus. But as the overall prison population fell, the proportion of Black incarcerated people increased, according to data compiled by researchers at Harvard’s new Institute on Policing, Incarceration & Public Safety (IPIPS) at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Researchers attribute this finding to racial disparities in sentence length: Those with shorter sentences were released early, those with longer sentences remained locked up. “This provides a very strong quantitative case that sentencing is the key mechanism of racial disparities in the system,” said Elizabeth Hinton, co-director of the Institute and lead author of the study along with Data for Justice Fellow Brennan Klein. On average, Black...

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