Shortly after the release of my first book (African Americans and the Criminal Justice System), the Sentencing Project released its findings of African Americans under the control of the criminal justice system. Their findings, that 32.2 percent of all African American men in their twenties in the United States during 1995 were either in jail, prison, or on probation or parole, provided a particularly poignant example of the importance of race. Now, seven years later, as I finish another book about African Americans and the criminal justice system, the Justice Policy Institute has released Cellblocks or Classrooms? The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men. Again, the news is bleak. In 2000 there were 188,500 more African American men in prison or jail than enrolled in higher education. Between 1980 and 2000 thirtyeight states added more African American men to their prison systems than were added to their respective higher education systems. What these numbers suggest is that race continues to be a defining feature of American society and its criminal justice system.
The fact that the Sentencing Project's 1995 report was soon eclipsed by other news stories left me feeling uncomfortable. Had there been a report that almost one-third of all white males in their twenties were in some way involved with the criminal justice system, I am confident that there would have been a public outcry and demand for answers to the [problem," yet nothing of substance emerged from that report. That the Justice Policy Institute's results in 2002 are not even deemed newsworthy only serves to heighten my concern. These feelings (and a wealth of other data show-