The rate of defendants given custodial sentences from the 22nd Circuit Court per 1,000 adults
Black adults are four times as likely to be sentenced to incarceration than white adults.
A score of 100 represents racial equity, meaning there are no racial disparities in outcomes. The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.
For Incarceration, a score of 100 — a score reflecting racial equity — would mean black and white adults are equally likely to be sentenced to incarceration. It is important to note that for this indicator, equity is not our only goal: we also want to improve outcomes for all.
What does this indicator measure?
Incarceration measures the rate of defendants given custodial sentences from the 22nd Circuit Court per 1,000 adults. There were 709 defendants sentenced to incarceration from the 22nd Circuit Court in 2016. That constitutes a rate of 2.8 defendants sentenced to incarceration for every 1,000 adults.
Adults sentenced to incarceration from St. Louis 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis City.
|All||Black||White||Disparity Ratio||Equity Score|
|Defendants sentenced to incarceration||709||562||147||-||-|
|Defendants sentenced to incarceration per 1,000 adults||2.8||5.3||1.3||4.112 to 1||26|
Data source: Missouri Department of Corrections, 2016; American Community Survey 1-year PUMS, 2016.
What does this analysis mean?
Based on their share of the population, black adults are overrepresented in the population of people sentenced to incarceration. Black adults are more than four times as likely to be represented in the population of defendants sentenced to incarceration as white adults. There are 5.3 black defendants sentenced to incarceration for every 1,000 black adult residents, compared to 1.3 white defendants sentenced to incarceration for every 1,000 white adult residents. If incarceration rates were equitable, there would have been 425 fewer black adults sentenced to incarceration in 2016.
Why does Incarceration matter?
Formerly incarcerated individuals face many collateral consequences that make it difficult for them to reintegrate into the community. The Sentencing Project summarizes, "Incarceration creates a host of collateral consequences that include restricted employment prospects, housing instability, family disruption, stigma, and disenfranchisement." While job and housing discrimination is illegal based on race, class, gender, sexual identity, or ability, it is legal to discriminate based on criminal background. Our criminal justice system creates permanent second class citizens by denying basic rights to formerly incarcerated individuals, such as voting and access to social services.
Incarceration is also expensive. In 2016, the 20 prisons in Missouri cost $726 million per year to operate, which equates to around $22,000 per inmate per year. The unseen costs of incarceration go beyond prison operating costs. Washington University in St. Louis researchers estimate the annual aggregate cost of incarceration to families, children, and communities to be $1 trillion dollars nationally.
Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are linked with this indicator?
While the Ferguson Commission report primarily discusses incarceration as an outcome metric, they identified the following Call to Action:
Questions for further investigation
- Why is there a racial disparity in Incarceration?
- What can St. Louis do to reduce racial disparities in Incarceration?
- What initiatives are currently underway to reduce racial disparities in Incarceration?
How can I learn more about this issue?
The Sentencing Project reports incarceration data for every state in the U.S. and provides demographics based on race. In 2016, they released a report on the subject: The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons.
In 2014, the Vera Institute found black and Hispanic defendants in New York County were more likely to be sentenced to incarceration than to be offered non-custodial sentence offers such as community service, probation, or fines.
The 2007 Wisconsin Sentencing Commission found similar racial disparities in sentencing. In addition, they found as the severity of the offense decreased, racial disparities in sentencing increased.
The author Michelle Alexander describes in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow how it "is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans."