There are many dark secrets of the U.S. prison system, but one that is obvious for all to see is that there are stark racial disparities in who is imprisoned within the prison system. Despite making up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, 22 percent of people killed by police and 47 percent of people wrongfully convicted of crimes are Black, according to the American Bar Association. In general, Black people are sent to prison five times as often as white people and also face disproportionately harsh sentences for the crimes they commit, per the American Bar Association.

According to the Sentencing Project, these disparities stem from the War on Drugs of the 1970s, when former president Richard Nixon passed policies like “Broken Windows” and “Stop, Question, and Frisk.” The result was a selective targeting of racial minorities for drug offenses that put them in prison at higher rates.

But these disparities can also be attributed to policies  that disproportionately target people living in poverty. Per the Sentencing Project, the U.S. “​​in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color.”

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