Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Prison Segregation

Symposium Introduction and Preliminary Data on Racial Disparities

Prison Segregation

Schlanger, Margo. “Prison Segregation: Symposium Introduction and Preliminary Data on Racial Disparities.” Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Vol. 18, pp. 241 (2013); U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 322.

“This short essay introduces the Michigan Journal of Race & Law Journal’s symposium, Inhumane and Ineffective: Solitary Confinement in Michigan and Beyond. I look at the extremely limited available demographic information about prisoners in solitary confinement, and present preliminary data that supports a working hypothesis of racialized skew in isolated confinement, compared to the already highly skewed demographics of general prison population. In four of eight datapoints (representing prisons in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York), non-white prisoners are substantially overrepresented in supermax facilities; statistical testing confirms that the difference is statistically significant. (In three of the other four — Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island — the small overrepresentation is not statistically significant; likewise, the tiny proportion of underrepresentation in Maryland lacks statistical significance.) The essay concludes with the customary call for further research.”

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Keywords: racial disparities, litigation, reform, supermax, super-max