New Report Sheds Light on Disproportionate Arrests of African American Women

May 1, 2015  |  

There has been a lot of talk as of late about the state of Black men and their disproportionate interaction with the criminal justice system; but little, if ever, do we stop to consider the mass incarceration of Black women.

A new study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice offers us insight into the long-ignored topic and the numbers aren’t pretty. According to a fact sheet, which was published on Wednesday, African-American women in San Francisco are arrested at rates disproportionate to any other other racial or ethnic group.

As the report states:

“According to the data, black women compose less than six percent of San Francisco’s female population, but constitute nearly half of all female arrests and experience arrest rates 13 times higher than women of other races.

The fact sheet expounds upon a 2012 CJCJ research brief by Mike Males and William Armaline, which charts the increasing racially disparate arrest rates of African Americans in San Francisco over the past 40 years that continue today. While in 1980, African American women were 4.1 times more likely to be arrested than women of other races, as of 2013, black women in San Francisco were 13.4 times more likely to be arrested than non-black women. This, despite an overall decrease in the population of African Americans in San Francisco.”

As the fact sheet further states, African American women were 34 times more likely to be arrested in San Francisco for narcotics and 31 times more likely to be arrested for prostitution. Likewise, African American women were more likely to find themselves victims of “driving while Black,” as they were 17 times more likely to be arrested during traffic violations.

According to the report, the rate of arrests of African American women has risen sharply over the last 35 years. And despite having these facts “repeatedly reported” to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Board of Supervisors and Police Commission, the report claims that little has been done to try to decrease those numbers.

Nationally, the rate of incarceration for African American women is on the decline, according to a recent report by the Sentencing Project, but as the Southern Coalition for Social Justice finds, African American women receive longer prison sentences than their white counterparts. This is particularly true if they are of a darker hue, according to a 2011 study by Villanova University.

Likewise, African American women are being targeted by the criminal justice system at much younger ages than their racial counterparts. According to the report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, African American girls are six times more likely to be suspended and often subjected to much harsher and frequent disciplinary actions at schools than that of their White, female peers.

And as this article from 2012 entitled What’s Gender Got to Do With Racial Profiling notes:

” What we do know is that racial profiling of women of color in the context of the “war on drugs” continues to drive the reality that Black and Latina women are the fastest growing population of people in prison. The findings of the well-known 2000 study by the General Accounting Office documented the practice of profiling Black women at the nation’s airports were just the tip of the iceberg . Pervasive profiling of women of color as drug users, couriers, and purveyors extends into highways, streets, and communities across the country. Such profiling also extends beyond African American and Latina women to Native women, who have consistently reported widespread profiling in the context of the “war on drugs.”

It definitely seems that when it comes to mass incarceration and racial profiling, Black women have not been exempt. And when we take issues, which largely affect the entire Black community and only look at them from the viewpoint of what is happening to the men of the community, we fail to address them at all.

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