After completing a yearlong study of racial imbalances in juries in Louisville’s Jefferson County, a court commission wants to see if it can determine why a disproportionate number of African Americans end up in prison in Kentucky, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. In Jefferson County, for instance, 57 percent of the people sent to state prison last year were African American, even though blacks comprise only 20 percent of the county population.
“I’m alarmed when I look at this,” Raoul Cunningham, the Louisville NAACP president and a member of the Commission on Racial Fairness. Some other large counties have an even larger disparity. For the state overall, African Americans make up 7 percent of the population, but they account for 24 percent of those going to prison. Marc Mauer of the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project, said Kentucky is actually a little below the national average, with blacks here being five times more likely to be incarcerated in jails and prisons than whites. The national average is 5.6 times. Mauer said that while both whites and blacks use illegal substances, blacks are arrested and incarcerated more frequently, as law enforcement tends to focus more resources on the low-income, minority community.