East Harlem, Manhattan

The legacy of redlining and its aftermath have fueled an era of mass incarceration in segregated communities of color in the US. Redlined neighborhoods endured years of disinvestment, white flight, neglect, and planned shrinkage which was followed by epidemics of poverty, drugs, and disease. But instead of addressing the systemic causes of urban decay, the state responded primarily through the criminal justice system.


East Harlem is one of the neighborhoods in NYC where the state has invested the most in incarceration. In 2008, 285 people from East Harlem were admitted to prison, the second highest count in New York City. The estimated cost of incarcerating these 285 people is $23.4 million. East Harlem has been home to several “million dollar blocks,” areas where the state spends over $1 million a year to incarcerate the residents of a single census block.


East Harlem is 50% Latino and 30% Black. 23% of its residents live in poverty. Just a few blocks south, on the Upper East Side, where 78% of the population is white and 7% of residents live below the poverty line, the expected lifetime cost of prison admissions in 2008 was just $300,000.


Disparities can also be seen in the rate of residents admitted to local jails. In 2016, the rate of jail incarceration for residents of East Harlem was 1,291 per every 100,000 adults. On the Upper East Side, the rate was 71 per 100,000.

Jail Incarceration Rate