Population of MSP Parchman about 1909

face of a prisoner

In a letter written about 1909, Mississippi Senator John M. McDowell stated, “There are about 150 white convicts in the {Parchman} penitentiary and about 1500 Negroes.”^ Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) at Parchman was “the quintessential penal farm, the closest thing to slavery that survived the Civil War.” However, between 1870 and 1970, females never comprised more than 5% of Parchman’s population.^ That’s a much different sex ratio than the sex ratio of slaves in the U.S. prior to the Civil War. Vastly disproportionate imprisonment of males is a central, but under-appreciated, feature of legal incarceration.

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