Racial Equity


Incarceration Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 2018

What does this measure?

The number of people incarcerated in local jails by race/ethnicity, expressed as a rate per 10,000 residents of that race/ethnicity.

Why is this important?

Incarceration serves to remove offenders from a community, but also creates hardships on families, including the loss of an income or a caregiver, in addition to long-term effects on mental health for all involved. After incarceration, people often encounter challenges in obtaining meaningful employment, leading to reductions in long-term productivity, recidivism and widespread effects on a community's social, health and educational systems. Disparities in this rate by race or ethnicity can highlight structural differences in how communities are affected and treated by the public safety and criminal justice system.

How does our county compare?

In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, African Americans in Lancaster were incarcerated at a rate of 130 persons per 10,000 residents, more than eight times the rate of 16 per 10,000 for white residents. Latinos, at 60 per 10,000 residents, were incarcerated at more than three and a half times the rate of white residents. These disparities are larger than in Pennsylvania as a whole, where African Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of whites and Latinos at two times the rate of whites.

Among comparison counties, Lancaster had the second lowest rate of incarceration among African Americans after Cumberland County at 96 per 1,000, and the fourth highest rate among Latinos behind York (233), Berks (67) and Lebanon (61).

Why do these disparities exist?

Disparities in incarceration are the result of racialized stereotypes, policies and practices and community conditions. Stereotypes that portray Black and Latino people, especially males, as inherently dangerous, criminal, and violent lay the foundation for police surveillance and disparate and harsher treatment by the criminal justice system. Communities of color are more likely to be under surveillance and policies such as stop and frisk perpetuate increased police contact. Punitive drug laws have had disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities. Even though Blacks and whites have similar rates of drug use, Black people are more likely to be arrested and experience harsher sentences. In general, whites experience less harsh sentences when convicted of similar crimes as Black and Latinos. Given economic disparities, people of color are less likely to experience pre-trial release after arrest. The concentration of Black and Latino communities in highly segregated communities with limited economic opportunities and ineffective schools may also foster crime involvement.

Notes about the data

Rates are for people in local jails at the county level and in prisons and county jails at the state level. Rates for subgroups at the state level only include the county jail population, not state prisons. National data reported here is missing five states that did not report.

Incarceration Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 2018
AsianBlack or African AmericanLatinoNative AmericanWhite
Lancaster County2.1130.359.718.916.0
Dauphin County7.9207.158.525.341.1
York County0.0368.2222.70.034.8
Lebanon County13.3217.460.90.050.2
Cumberland County5.096.112.635.524.5
Berks County8.5168.
Chester County1.8142.346.019.615.9

Source: Vera Institute of Justice
Notes: Rates are per 10,000 residents

Number of Incarcerated People by Race/Ethnicity, 2018
AsianBlack or African AmericanLatinoNative AmericanWhite
Lancaster County21962281441
Dauphin County8688971485
York County07015080839
Lebanon County251760356
Cumberland County47891339
Berks County42294000510
Chester County43151181429

Source: Vera Institute of Justice
Notes: Figures are for the total jail population. The total jail population is the average daily population.