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Race and incarceration: the representation and characteristics of black people in provincial correctional facilities in Ontario, Canada

Owusu-Bempah A, Jung M, Sbai F, Wilton AS, Kouyoumdjian F. Race Justice. 2021; Apr 8 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/21533687211006461


Racially disaggregated incarceration data are an important indicator of population health and well-being, but are lacking in the Canadian context. We aimed to describe incarceration rates and proportions of Black people who experienced incarceration in Ontario, Canada during 2010 using population-based data. We used correctional administrative data for all 45,956 men and 6,357 women released from provincial correctional facilities in Ontario in 2010, including self-reported race data. Using 2006 Ontario Census data on the population size for race and age categories, we calculated and compared incarceration rates and proportions of the population experiencing incarceration by age, sex, and race groups using chi-square tests. In this first Canadian study presenting detailed incarceration rates by race, we found substantial over-representation of Black men in provincial correctional facilities in Ontario. We also found that a large proportion of Black men experience incarceration. In addition to further research, evidence-based action is needed to prevent exposure to criminogenic factors for Black people and to address the inequitable treatment of Black people within the criminal justice system.

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