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Study: Incarceration rates for blacks declined, while the rate for whites increased

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A new study out this week from the Sentencing Project finds the number of whites and Hispanics in prison have increased, while incarceration rates for black Americans have dropped. The study looked at incarceration rates across the nation from 2000 to 2009.

Incarceration rates among women saw the biggest changes. Black women in prison dropped 30.7 percent, while there was a 47.1 percent rise for white women and an increase of 23.3 percent for Hispanic women. However, in 2009, black women were still 2.8 times more likely to be in prison then white women.

Men on the other hand saw less dramatic fluctuations. The rate of imprisonment for black men dropped 9.8 percent and rose 8.5 percent for white men. For Hispanic men, the rate dropped by 2.2 percent. But still, black men were 6.4 times more likely to be imprisoned than white men in 2009.

And even though some groups are being imprisoned less often, the overall rate of imprisonment has increased by a factor of five since 1970, and overcrowding is still an issue.

What's behind these changes? Marc Mauer is the author of that study and the Executive Director at The Sentencing Project. He joins Alex to discuss.