According to the International Centre for Prison Studies in 2015, over 6.7 million individuals1) were under some form of correctional control in the United States, including 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons and jails. The U.S. is a world leader in its rate of incarceration, dwarfing the rate of nearly every other nation.
Such broad statistics mask the racial disparity that pervades the U.S. criminal justice system, and for African Americans in particular. African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, and they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences. African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely. As of 2001, one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys.
Black celebrities are no stranger to these statistics either. Of course, Bill Cosby comes to mind because of the recent overturn of his convinction and release, but there are a number of others who have criminal records that you may not have known of.
Lauryn Hill – 3 months
Singer and former Fugees member, Laurin Hill was arrested in 2013 for failing to pay taxes on $1.8 million in earnings. Hill was given a three-year house arrest, along with three years on probation. After she was sentenced, she said: “I needed to be able to earn so I could pay my taxes, without compromising the health and welfare of my children, and I was being denied that.”
Lil Kim – 1 Year
In 2005, rap artist Lil Kim served one year in prison for lying to a jury about a friends’ involvement in an earlier shooting. During her incarceration, Kim released her fourth album.
Wesley Snipes – 3 years
The star of Blade and White Men Can’t Jump, found himself charged with tax evasion in 2006. Four years later, Wesley Snipes was convicted for three misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns for 1999, 2000 and 2001, and served a 3-year prison sentence before his release in April 2013.
Fat Joe – 4 Months
In 2013, celebrity rapper, Fat Joe, was arrested and sent to prison for four months after pleading guilty to tax evasion. He was also arrested in 1998 for assault charges and was even named as a witness in two murder cases.
James Brown – 6 Years
James Brown, also known as The Godfather of Soul and Mr. Dynamite, was found guilty of carrying a deadly weapon at a public gathering, attempting to flee a police officer, and driving under the influence of drugs. He was sentenced to six years in prison for waving a gun at an insurance company and then