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Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

Mass Incarceration of African Americans based on race

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/26/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 820 times Debate No: 106137
Debate Rounds (3)
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I am taking the stance that is against the notion that Mass Incarceration of African Americans is based on race and not based on actual crimes, for the most part. Most of the arguments I have heard have been from the Netflix Documentary, '13th'. There are many past injustices I can agree on in terms of the war on drugs or how the prison system treats prisoners etc. That's not what I am here for. I am here to provide arguments using facts and statistics that can counter the idea that African Americans are being sent to prison based on race through a racist criminal justice system CURRENTLY. My argument is simple:

Let's start off with the current US population. It's 323,000,000. The US prison population is 2,300,000. That is roughly 0.7% of the US population. Not even 1%. The US prison population in 1972 for example, was 300,000. And the US population was 210,000,000. So 0.2% of the US population in 1972 were in prison. That means that over the course of 46 years, that is a 0.5% increase. Which also means that on average, the prison population has risen 0.1% for every 9 years, since 1972 - 2017.

(I'm providing these statistics to give you a wider scope as to how relatively small these numbers are)

Now let's analyze the statistics for African Americans within the US prison population:

The African American US population is 42,000,000 or 13% of the US population. The African American prison population is 35% of the US prison population which is 2.3M as addressed above. That means that roughly 805,000 African Americans are in prison. This means that 2% of the African American US population is in prison.

One of the constant arguments I hear, are the injustices involved with drug offenses for the African American communities.

So let's take a look at the statistics for drug offenses. Of the 35% of African Americans in prison. Roughly 15% of that 35%, are in for non violent drug offenses. To give you an idea, that is roughly 120,000 cases. Now to broaden this scope even more. That is 0.03% of the African American population. Does 0.03% sound like MASS Incarceration? Mass defined as 'majority'.

Now just a bit more context, 58% of that 35%, are in for violent crimes. That is roughly 450,000 cases. Which is roughly 1% of the African American population. Still does not sound like "Mass" Incarceration.

But what would be statistics if we didn't have comparison?

Let's go over different races in comparison, to be fair:

The Non Hispanic White US population is roughly 63%. That is roughly 200,000,000. About 37% of the 2.3M US prison population are non hispanic whites. Which is roughly 900,000. That means that 0.5% of the Non Hispanic White US population is in prison.

So to be fair, 1.5% more African Americans are in prison compared to Whites in terms of disproportion. And just to save characters and give a different race to compare, 0.9% of the Hispanic Population are in prison.

So given the facts, how can anyone argue that the 13% African American US population is being mass incarcerated? How can anyone argue that a majority of those 120,000 non violent drug offense cases are all unjustified? As well as the 450,000 violent crimes. One would need to review on a case by case basis. Which leads to a subjective question:

How many proven unjustified cases for you, are enough to say that the criminal justice system are putting African Americans in prison based on race?

We can hopefully agree that 1 is too many. But are 1, 10, 50, 100, or even 1000 proven unjustified cases enough to say that the system is rigged, racist, and full of white supremacists?

And even if your subjective answer is 'yes, 50 out of 120,000 is enough'. That still doesn't give you any reason to use the word 'Mass'. If anything, it is Minor Incarceration. And let's go even further and say you went with 'yes, 10,000 out of 120,000 is enough'. Prove it. Show the evidence that 10,000 cases were wrongly sent to prison. Or that 10,000 were given harsher sentences than that of a different race.

Not only that, but to take this just a step further. There are roughly 3,300 judges in the US. Coincidentally, by race, is distributed quite evenly with their population. 71% of those judges are White, and 14% of those judges are African American. So minus about 500 of those African American judges from 3,300 as individuals that would target someone of their own race. So now we have 2,800. But let's minus the other minority judges and simply focus on the supposed evil White Supremacist. Which would be about 2,300.

Ok, so would you say that these 2,300 judges are all racist white Republicans for example? Or maybe, just maybe some of them are Democrats. You cannot really find online the affiliations because most judges are supposed to be unbiased. But let's say we just cut it in half to be fair. 1,150 judges.

Would you accuse 1,150 judges for being racist Republican White Supremacists ? If so, how can you prove that? Are you not only going to go case by case with the 2% African American population, and see if those cases were unjustified, as well as see which judges were the ones responsible?

If the jury was involved, are you going to go case by case with each jury member to find out if they were racist? Keep in mind the country is divided roughly half and half in terms of party affiliation. The jury would most likely have Democrats and Republicans, or even Independents etc. This would cut the odds of racism.

There is more, but I'll stop here to give my opponent the chance to address my argument. I'm curious to read the argument against this.

(As a side note, none of my sources come from articles and media sites like Huff Po or NY Times. The statistics have either been looked up with a simple Google search or a Wikipedia page that you can find easily. But some of the math was done by me, because nothing online presented those types of statistics)


So first, your use of statistics is terrible. Instead of illuminating the issue, you are employing statistics to diminishing it. It's like looking through binoculars backwards to prove that there's nothing to see.
Example: "Winning $50 million in the lottery doesn't make any difference. If you look at all the money in the world, which is hundreds or thousands of trillions of dollars, $50 million is far less than one percent of that. Therefore $50 million isn't a lot of money." This is your logic in a nutshell.

"Mass incarceration" does not mean a majority. It means treating people en mass rather than as individuals. Essentially, the accusation behind that phrase is that we are using prisons as warehouses for social problems rather than punishment or reform. The number of incarcerated people with diagnosed mental disorders who receive medication, which is large, testifies to this.

Your statistics provided no basis of comparison -- some idea of what an "appropriate" incarceration rate should be -- so you cannot say what percentage is low or high. Ours is the highest. We have a higher percentage of incarcerated people than any other country in the world. We have 22% of the prisoners in the world, but 5% of the global population.

Second, if someone told you that in Germany, Jews are incarcerated in disproportionate numbers, you'd probably think something is going on. Your own statistics show that black people are incarcerated in disproportionate numbers. This is basically the premise of "The New Jim Crow" (I think the author is featured in the 13th). But do black people commit that many more crimes? If you focus law enforcement on certain groups, it will certainly look that way. For instance, if we put 5 times as many meter maids in the north half of a city, you will find many more parking violations there. Any black person can tell you that black people are routinely stopped by cops and questioned -- cops even have names for these policies ("stop and frisk," "broken windows policing"). If they see something off, they have reason to look closer. Then you have lots of black people accused of crimes even if they are behaving the same as whites.

It's well-known that blacks receive harsher sentences for the same crimes than whites. This has been proven true with the death penalty, for instance. It's a relatively easy comparison -- look at convictions for crimes and the sentences applied to each conviction. There's not a lot of subjectivity to a study like that.

Also white people use drugs in about the same proportions as black people do, but do not face jail time for it as often. In fact during the war on drugs, sentences required for crack use were harsher than those for cocaine. Also look at what's going on with the meth epidemic currently. This largely affects rural white areas. But there's no war on meth that puts "predators" behind bars, like with the war on drugs in the 80s and 90s.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for the response! Sorry if the first argument rushed out the gates too quickly without much of a proper or welcoming intro. First time on Debate.Org. Here is my 2nd argument:

If you Google "Mass Incarceration", the definition is as follows:

"Mass incarceration is a term used by historians and sociologists to describe the substantial increase in the number of incarcerated people in the United States' prisons over the past forty years"

One key word here is 'substantial'. Substantial meaning "of considerable importance, size or worth". This is a subjective argument. What is considered to be substantial to me, you or anyone else? Who gets to decide what the correct substantial amount is? And why is it, that the selected amount is correct?

The point is, in order to come to a consensus about it being substantial or not, me providing those statistics would give us an idea of what this increase has been, over the last 40 years. The statistics were not there to be the end all be all argument. My logic didn't stop where you thought it did.

I do agree with you that I did not provide enough statistics to compare the country as a whole, to other countries. And there's a reason I didn't. So let's look at that:

World Prison Population: 9 million

US - 25%
China - 17%
Russia - 10%
Brazil - 5%
Mexico - 5%


Yes, the United States has the highest prison population compared to any other country as well as the rate. Although Russia isn't so far behind the US. But there is more to it than just population. Why is it that other countries do not have a higher prison population or incarceration rate? There are many many factors to consider, including population size, economics of a given country, cultures, diversity, politics, policing, murder rate, drug rate etc.

For example, South Africa has a very low incarceration rate compared to the US with 0.3% of the population in prison compared to the US's 0.7% . But on the other hand, South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world with average 40 per 100,000 and comparatively the US has 5 per 100,000. So how does that make sense? Higher murder rate but lower incarceration rate? But you could say the same thing about the US right? Lower murder rate but higher incarceration rate? And that's the point, they are 2 different countries behaving in totally different manners. And this can be said about many other countries compared to the US. Every country behaves differently. Different laws and different cultures all affecting its incarceration rate. That's why my binoculars stay within the US and don't widen so much to the point that I forget what I'm looking at.

No, I would think something is going on, if in Germany, Jews were being incarcerated in WILDLY disproportionate numbers. A 1.5% difference between whites and blacks in the US, to me, says something is going on sure, but it doesn't necessarily say its based on race. And that leads to the next point:

You asked if "black people commit that many more crimes?". Yes, they do. Blacks make up 52% of the murders in the US. And if you want to talk about disproportion, again, blacks make up 13% of the population, yet are responsible for 52% of the murders. And a lot of this has to do with black on black crime. Of those 52% murders, 93% of them were black on black. Also keep in mind in my first argument, that most blacks are in prison for violent crimes at 58% and 15% are in for non violent drug offenses.


It is true, black communities receive higher policing. The reason is because of such high murder rates within the black communities. It is to try and prevent these types of murders from happening. This is why you see high policing in certain areas of mostly white communities in rural areas. I can agree with you on certain policies and actions made in the 80's and 90's. But I'm talking about today. With regards to today, there will be instances of wrong doing by police officers. Humans are not perfect. There will always be error. But to say all are racist based on slight errors by a minority of them, would be a lazy way of analyzing the situation.

Also, there's a huge misconception that the drug offenses committed by blacks are for abuse. When a majority are in for distribution. Another reason as to why blacks may receive harsher sentences, is that you are more likely to receive a harsher sentence, if you have a larger criminal history attached with that crime. So when the narrative is that a man who is black received a harsher sentence for the same crime as a white man, should actually be told as, a man who is black received a harsher sentence for the same crime as a white man, as well as having the same or similar criminal history. Whether you agree or disagree with the method of sentencing harsher for criminal history comparisons, it still isn't racism. Just bad practice.

Your last sentence here, is a great point to be made:

"But there's no war on meth that puts "predators" behind bars, like with the war on drugs in the 80s and 90s."

When you say " with the war on drugs in the 80's and 90's". Again, we're not talking about the 80's or 90's. We are not IN the 80's or 90's. The war on drugs is over for the most part. Look at the statistics. 0.03% of blacks are in for drug offenses. Not even 0.1%. The idea that blacks are being rounded up based on race , and the system is using drug offenses as their excuse, is absurd when looking at this statistic. The idea that 450,000 of these violent crimes are without a doubt unjustified is absurd. That's why in my earlier argument I bring up the notion of going through on a case by case basis. 1 is too many, but how many are enough to say the system is racist and throwing blacks in jail based on race?

We can agree on the ways police do their job, or the methods being used. All I am here arguing is that Blacks are not being put in jail based on race, for the most part. When it comes down to it, the simple answer is that Blacks commit more crimes than any other race in the United States. That is the reason they are incarcerated higher than any other race. Whether blacks are getting harsher sentences than whites or they aren't, they would still end up with higher incarceration, because at the end of the day, they are being arrested for a crime.
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by What50 2 years ago
I believe Blacks are inferior to whites however this debate is too iron clad to give Pro any room to debate.
Posted by NKJVPrewrather 2 years ago
I doubt anyone is racist enough to hate blacks.
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