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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

VERIFY: Rate of incarceration highest among black Iowans

Local 5 is On Your Side to give you the facts about incarceration rates in the State of Iowa.

IOWA, USA —

While more white Iowans total are incarcerated, a far higher rate of incarceration exists among African Americans, according to state data.

Our sources are the U.S. Census Bureau and the Iowa Department of Corrections 

Data from the Census Bureau is an estimation of Iowa's population from July 2019. As you look at the data listed, you'll notice there are two different sections for Iowans that identify themselves as white.  

For the sake of being as transparent as possible, Local 5 is using the data point that shows 85.3% of Iowans are white alone, not Hispanic or Latino. 

Data being used from the Iowa DOC is from November 2019 through February 2020. More data on incarcerated Iowans, such as age and offenses, can be found below. 

Breaking down Iowa's total population by race 

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Iowa's total population at 3,155,070. Here's the breakdown by race: 

  • 85.3% White (about 2,691,275 total) 
  • 4% African American (about 126,203 total) 
  • 0.5% Native American/Alaska Native (about 15,775 total) 
  • 2.8% Asian/Pacific Islander (about 88,342 total) 
  • 6.2% Hispanic (about 195,614 total) 
  • 1.9% two or more races (about 59,946 total) 

The bureau also notes that 50.2% of Iowans are female and 49.8% are male. A total of 1,583,845 females reside in Iowa, and 1,571,225 are male.  

This information was found by taking the estimated total population of Iowa and multiplying it by the percentages given on the bureau's database, for example, 3,155,070 x .853 = about 2,691,275.  

Here's a breakdown of incarcerated Iowans by race for February 2020 based on Iowa DOC data: 

  • 65% White (5,505) 
  • 25% African American (2,116) 
  • 7% Hispanic (577) 
  • 2% Native American/Alaska Native (155) 
  • 1% Asian/Pacific Islander (63) 

It's important to note that the Iowa DOC doesn't record offenders that identify as two or more races. 

Comparing incarceration rates by race populations in Iowa

Let's compare the incarceration rate of Iowa's total prison population in February 2020.

Here's a list of both male and female offenders that are incarcerated by race. For this, we'll calculate using a specific race's incarcerations and divide it by the statewide population of that race: 

  • 0.2% of all White Iowans are incarcerated 
  • 1.7% of all African American Iowans are incarcerated 
  • 0.3% of Hispanic Iowans are incarcerated 
  • 0.98% of all Native American/Alaska Native Iowans are incarcerated 
  • 0.07% of all Asian/Pacific Islander Iowans are incarcerated 

African Americans in Iowa were admitted to prison at a higher rate from November 2019-January 2020 as well.

Here's the breakdown of prison admissions for January 2020:

  • 69% White (408) 
  • 21.2% African American (126) 
  • 6.3% Hispanic (37) 
  • 2.9% Native American/Alaska Native (17) 
  • 0.34% Asian/Pacific Islander (2) 

A total of 499 Iowans were admitted to prison in December 2019.

Here's that breakdown:

  • 69.5% White (347) 
  • 22.85% African American (114) 
  • 5.8% Hispanic (29) 
  • 1.4% Native American/Alaska Native (17) 
  • 0.4% Asian/Pacific Islander (2)

Finally, a total of 448 Iowans were admitted to prison in November 2019:

  • 70% White (315) 
  • 21.7% African American (97) 
  • 5.8% Hispanic (26) 
  • 1.34% Native American/Alaska Native (6) 
  • 0.7% Asian/Pacific Islander (3)

From there, we'll take the number of newly-admitted white Iowans in January 2020 (408) divided by the total population of white Iowans (2,691,275) according to the Census Burean numbers. The result is an incarceration rate of about 0.015%. 

Doing the same for newly-admitted African Americans—126 divided by 126,203— we find the result is about 0.0998%.

December 2019

  • White — 0.013%
  • African American — 0.09 %

November 2019

  • White — 0.012%
  • African American — 0.08%

Below are the November 2019-January 2020 incarceration rates by race:

  • White — 0.0004% (About 1-in-250,000)
  • African American — 0.003% (About 1-in-33,333)
  • Hispanic — 0.0005% (About 1-in-200,000)
  • Native American/Alaska Native — 0.002% (About 1-in-50,000)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander — 0.00008% (About 1-in-1,250,000)

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Breaking down incarcerated Iowans by race, sex

Data from the Iowa DOC says 8,416 Iowans were incarcerated in February 2020. Female offenders make up 9% of the population, male offenders make up 91%.

That totals 757 females and 7,659 males.

Here's a further breakdown for males: 

  • 64% male offenders are White (4,928) 
  • 26% male offenders are African American (2,011) 
  • 7% male offenders are Hispanic (535) 
  • 2% male offenders are Native American/Alaska Native (127) 
  • 1% male offenders are Asian/Pacific Islander (58) 

And again for females: 

  • 76% female offenders are White (577) 
  • 14% female offenders are African American (105) 
  • 6% female offenders are Hispanic (42) 
  • 4% female offenders are Native American/Alaska Native (28) 
  • 1% female offenders are Asian/Pacific Islander (5)