This paper focuses on one specific aspect of the criminal justice system – the prison system. I look at racial disparities within the United States prison population and attempts to analyze and explain the existence of these disparities. Through analyzing the findings of previous researchers and conducting statistical analysis on a dataset from the Prison Policy Initiative, I attempt to identify and explain the racial disparities prevalent within the prison population. I also look at the racial composition of the incarcerated population as a percentage of the total population for each state to analyze how racial disparities in imprisonment vary among states. Finally, I look at incarceration rates for each racial and ethnic group over time to determine how these racial disparities have persisted. I find that racial disparities do exist within the prison population in America. A statistically significant difference exists between the black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic, and biracial or multiracial prison populations and the white prison population. I also find that states with larger minority general populations have larger minority incarcerated populations. These findings indicate that a relationship exists between the incarceration rate and race. A relationship also exists between the racial composition of the incarcerated population and the racial composition of the general population.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 2021


Alison Buck

Mentor Department Affiliation

Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work

Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level



Language and Cultural Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology

Department Name when Degree Awarded

Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work