Skip to main content

Rosevelt L. Noble

Assistant Dean of Residential Colleges
Director of the Bishop Johnson Black Cultural Center
Faculty Head of Stambaugh House
Senior Lecturer in Sociology

How does race affect the phases of judicial processing and internal dynamics of the inmate subculture within U.S. prisons?

Minorities in the US are significantly over-represented among those under the control of the criminal justice system.  The disproportionate representation is greatest when considering those found in U.S. prisons. Racial differences in offending rates cannot solely explain the observed patterns in inmate demographics within the US. One potential contributing factor is the collective impact of the various subjective decisions made during key phases in the criminal justice system process. Unfortunately, the combined influence of biased processing coupled with other pre-prison sociological factors contributes significantly to problematic behavior by minority inmates within the prison environment.

In my book, Black Rage in the American Prison System, I provide an empirical assessment of an interracial theory of prison violence. The basic premise is that the combination of societal factors and the bias in criminal justice decisions experienced by minority inmates is a significant contributing factor in their over-representation among the population of aggressors in prison assaults. Black Rage examines the impact of many sociological factors such as marginal status in education and employment, police brutality, and racial profiling on the mental state of minority inmates once they reach prison. In addition, avenues of potential bias by key players in the justice process are examined for their collective impact in deciding who goes to prison in the U.S.