Mass Incarceration Timeline


Civil War ends Slavery


At the end of the Civil War slavery was abolished. Although under law it was illegal to have slaves, it didn't stop America from finding new ways to oppress black Americans

Convict Leasing System


Here we see very shortly after slavery is abolished that a new law allows incarcerated people, in particular black men, to be leased as workers to private individuals.

Jim Crow

1877 - 1890

In 1877, the introduction of Jim Crow laws were established. They were a set of anti-black laws the overtook the US. Thus began segregation of race.

The First "War on Drugs" is declared


Although the specific law, Harrison Narcotic Tax Act, isn't crucial to understanding mass incarceration, it is important to note that this is the first but most certainly not the last time a War on Drugs will be declared in the US.

Zoot Suit Riots


This called national attention to the racially violent acts of law enforcement. Before these riots, criminal justice matters were handled by local or state law enforcement. After it the misconduct and police brutality shown during these riots change needed to happen

The Mentally Ill become Criminals?


In 1955, the deinstitutionalization of mental health hospitals began. There was less and less attention and care for the mentally ill so it became the courts problem. Pretty soon the numbers started racking up as the mentally ill became a trend in jails and prisons country-wide.

Nixon Declares a War on Drugs


President Nixon declaring a war on drugs set a new precedent for all of America. At this time we see more than ever non-violent criminals, drug users and dealers, being sent to prison hence the spike in incarceration rates.

Incarceration Statistic


An important thing to note is that the number of incarcerated prisoners rose from 40,900 people to over 450,000 people by 2015.

Reagan Administration declares a War on Drugs


In a video we were assigned for class to watch, Christian Parenti talked about Reagan needing a greater excuse to rid of black freedom in America, hence the declaration of the new war on drugs. The main outbreak cause were drugs in relation to (black) ghettos.

Sentencing Reform Act


This imposed mandatory minimum sentencing for convicted criminals, eliminating judicial discretion. At this time 34,00 incarcerated 'criminals' were serving life sentences and in regards to the Sentencing Reform Act, that number more than doubled by the early 1900's.

Anti-Drug Abuse Act


This act set a minimum of a 5 year sentence w/o parole for possessing 500 grams of crack cocaine, most commonly found among the black community and 500 grams of powder cocaine, more so used by whites. At this time a poll revealed that 2% of the American public believed illegal drugs to be a pressing issue yet it was still made a big deal in an effort to incarcerate blacks more so than drug users. However this view changes in 1988.

Initiative 593


Washington passes Initiative 593, a three-strike law which states that life without parole for those convicted of certain felonies for third time.

Clinton signs Welfare Reform


President Clinton signing the welfare reform created more obstacles for convicted drug felons.



On this horrific day a terrorist left a lasting impression of who we view as dangerous in our country. Because of this, a War on Terror was started and even more intrusive and harsher policing was enforced.

Incarceration Statistic


According to The Sentencing Project, between 2008 and 2009 the highest number of incarcerated people was reported at 1.6 million people

Incarceration Statistic: Racial Disparity

2013 - 2014

According to the Sentencing Project, Whites had a presence of close to 500,000 incarcerated people and Blacks had 20,00 plus more people. Hispanics were at 319,000 and 'other' represented 135,000 people.

Rate of Imprisonment per 100,000 by Gender, Race, and Ethnicity


Women's rates are much lower then mens, although the highest of the women's was black women. Men hold a higher presence in the system. Black males hold the highest with 2,600 (per 100,000) compared to white males at 350 (per 100,000)

Felony Disenfranchisement


As of most recently, 48 out of the 50 states hold to Felony Disenfranchisement, which is a loss in voting rights if you've been convicted of a felony. Theres different rules per state, like when you can get voting status back etc. According to the Sentencing Project approximately 6 million people are without voting rights due to their felony conviction.