Integration behind bars 

Arkansas up, California down.

NO SEGREGATION: Black and white share cells in Arkansas.
  • NO SEGREGATION: Black and white share cells in Arkansas.

California still segregates prison inmates by race. Arkansas does not.

A prison at Chino, Calif., was the recent scene of a race riot that left 175 inmates injured, “a stark reminder,” one report said, “of the difficulty of race relations behind bars and the challenges of desegregating inmates.” California has for decades segregated inmates by race in cells and sleeping areas. Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered an end to the practice, but it continues at many of the California state prisons, supported by inmates and prison officials who fear violence.

Arkansas prisons ended segregation by race years ago, and peacefully for the most part, according to prison spokesman Dina Tyler. Black prisoners and white prisoners routinely share cells. If they get in a fight, as cellmates sometimes do, they'll be separated, but they won't be matched by race with a new cellmate.

Nor are inmates assigned to a particular prison because of race, Tyler said, disputing newspaper reports that black prisoners have sometimes been assigned to a predominantly white facility as punishment. Some of those reports were published in 2006 after interracial fights — described as “race riots” in at least one newspaper story — occurred at the prison in Calico Rock. Tyler says those disturbances were not exclusively about race. Most inmates at Calico Rock are white, and so are the guards, although the prison now has a black warden, Tyler said.

“The staff of a unit generally reflects the population of the area,” Tyler said. “Izard County is white. At Brickeys [Lee County], the staff is mostly black because the population is mostly black.” She agreed that some black inmates may prefer not to go to the Calico Rock prison because it's in an all-white area far from their families.

Inmates are sometimes separated from other inmates, but not because of race, Tyler said. “There may be an enemy alert — an inmate has a beef with another inmate and we'll separate them. Beefs are usually over somebody told something or somebody stole something. Some inmates are put in protective custody. An inmate with soft features, slightly built, might be put in protective custody. Sexual predators are separated out too.”

The racial mix in Arkansas prisons is different from that in California, which may or may not help explain some of California's difficulties in desegregating. Fifty-one percent of Arkansas inmates are white, 46 percent black, 2.6 percent Hispanic and 0.4 percent “other.” In California, 26 percent of prisoners are white, 29 percent black, 39 percent Hispanic and 6 percent of other races. The riot at Chino reportedly began with a fight between blacks and Hispanics.       



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • 'A Q&A with new UALR Chancellor Andrew Rogerson

    He comes to the campus at time of change.
  • Plant of the year

    The legalization of medical marijuana was Arkansas's most significant news of 2016.
  • Racism, materialism and militarism

    And more power for the House Speaker.
  • Memories of Townsend

    Vernon Tucker, musician and former Arkansas Times writer, asked for The Observer space this week to remember Townsend Wolfe. Why not? What follows is memory of early days at the Arts Center.
  • Taking on trainers

    As our legislators return to work this week, they will take up House Bill 1040, preventing athletic trainers from practicing in nonclinical settings and severely restricting what they can do to provide assistance to students.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The wizard of Wilson

    • Gaylon and his wife, Lisa, are first class citizens who live by the principle, "Treat…

    • on January 17, 2017
  • Re: Weird trivia

    • The Rapert dig is a libelous defamation of apes and hominoids. I get that it…

    • on January 17, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation