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Upstate NY counties send the most people to state prisons per capita, says new report

A new report found counties in upstate New York send the most people to prison per capita.

The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) and VOCAL-NY released a report this month that provides greater insight into where people incarcerated in New York State prisons come from- and it’s not just from the big cities as one might expect.

map of New York state showing incarceration rate by census tract and highlighting 8 counties with highest rates
Credit: Prison Policy Initiative

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NY’s least populated counties among those with highest rates of incarceration

The report uses redistricting data available through a 2010 reform bill, which aimed to end prison gerrymandering. The legislation ensured incarcerated individuals are counted as residents of their home community, not the location in which they are imprisoned.

Using the redistricting data, PPI and VOCAL-NY found that incarcerated people come from all across the state, but disproportionately from specific upstate communities.

The counties with the highest number of residents in state prisons are Albany, Chemung, Clinton, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, Schenectady and Sullivan. Six of those counties- barring Clinton and Sullivan- are considered upstate.

These eight counties account for only 10% of the state’s total population, however, those same counties account for 20% of New York’s prison population, according to the report.

The report also found some of the least populous upstate counties- Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Mongomery and Yates- have some of the highest imprisonment rates in New York.

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DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Syracuse’s Black neighborhoods disproportionately affected

New York City is the largest city in the state, but it’s imprisonment rate- 185 per 100,000 residents- is lower than some other cities in New York.

The city of Rochester, New York’s fourth most populous city, has an incarceration rate of 1,051 per 100,000 residents- five times that of New York City.

Syracuse, the state’s fifth most populous city, has 864 people in state prison per 100,000 residents. The report says one-quarter of the city’s incarcerated population comes from just four of the city’s 32 neighborhoods.

Those neighborhoods- Southwest, Near Westside, Brighton and Southside- are located west of Interstate 81. Southwest had an incarceration rate of 2,937 per 100,000 residents. Westcott, a neighborhood on the other side of Interstate 81, had an incarceration rate of only 225 per 100,000.

Additionally, three of the four neighborhoods with the highest incarceration rates are home to the most Black residents in all of Syracuse. Black people account for less than a third of the city’s population but accounted for 76% of traffic stops and 80% of marijuana-related arrests.

map comparing number of incarcerated residents of two neighborhoods in syracuse
Credit: Prison Policy Initiative

Read the full report here.

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