NEARLY 40 percent of California black men in their 20s were in prison, probation or on parole last year
The study by a group critical of the criminal justice system underlines a concern voiced repeatedly at the Million Man March in Washington last year: a generation of black men is being lost.
By contrast, only 5 percent of the state's white male population and 11 percent of Latino men in that age group were in the criminal system, said the study by the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a nonprofit policy group.
''You don't have to be a genius to recognize right off that there is something strange ... there is something going on,'' said San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
The report found blacks received prison sentences one-third more frequently than whites. They also found that a third of white first offenders had their charges reduced while only one-quarter of blacks and Latinos were given the same benefit of the doubt.
And it found that blacks were charged under the three-strikes law, which allows automatic life sentences for criminals convicted of three felonies, at 17 times the rate of whites in Los Angeles and 13 times the rate of whites in San Francisco.