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Racial Disparities in Philly Prisons Persist, Despite 47% Decline in Incarcerated Population

WHYY: Sammy Caiola - March 23, 2023

A Philadelphia nonprofit that works with formerly incarcerated women is on a mission to reduce racial disparities in the city’s jail and prison populations. Why Not Prosper has laid out recommendations in a new report out this week, produced in partnership with the city of Philadelphia as part of a federal grant challenge.

The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge provides funding to 57 cities, counties, and states to reform their criminal justice systems and reduce racial disparities. As of February 2022, Black Philadelphians make up 73% of the prison population while white residents make up just 8.5%, according to data from the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, though both groups comprise about 44% of the city population.

“We’re dealing with an unjust system, we’re dealing with racial inequalities as it relates to these systems, and so we want to navigate that together and help people become legalized,” said Rev. Michelle Anne Simmons, Why Not Prosper’s founder. “Because the lack of knowledge is the reason why people perish.”

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