Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Black Americans Given 60% Longer Sentences than White Americans for Same Crimes
submitted by Amanda Lang
A new academic study of 58,000 federal criminal cases has found significant disparities in sentencing for blacks and whites arrested for the same crimes. The research led to the conclusion that African-Americans' jail time was almost 60% longer than white sentences... The report concludes that sentence disparities 'can be almost completely explained by three factors: the original arrest offense, the defendant's criminal history, and the prosecutor's initial choice of charges.'
Read the entire report here.


Anonymous said...

This is certainly worth exploring. I clicked on the link. Unfortunately, there is not much more there than you posted. Without more, this raises more questions than it answers.

Prosecutors try to fit the charge to the crime, so is the root of the difference prosecutorial discretion or the underlying law determining what crimes carry a mandatory sentence? Has anyone studied whether there is a difference when the arresting officer and/or prosecutor are also African-American? (If they are, it would seem less likely the issue is a racial bias.) Also, how much of the cause is the defendant's criminal history? This would seem to be a fair basis on which to base sentencing distinctions.

Lorlee said...

"Also, how much of the cause is the defendant's criminal history? This would seem to be a fair basis on which to base sentencing distinctions."

But that history is probably based on the same discrimination. Black youth are very often more harshly treated on a first offense and thereby accrue a record. A vicious circle.

rcorum said...

Larry, you need to help me out. I did a quick Google search and found numerous articles about this very issue, but I was hard pressed to find the 60% higher rates in the article you cited. In fact, nothing even close. Check this article out and help me understand the differences. The reason why I choose this article is that it also argued that there was a problem and did not seem to have a policical bias. I am not at all denying that there is a problem, but am bringing up again the issue of interpretation of statistics. I believe there is a problem, but is it really that extreme? By the way, I have always thought the different guidlines between power and crack cocaine were crazy.

Anonymous said...

Please learn more:

WHO Dr. Gary Slutkin - Disrupting Violence
Watch “The Interrupters” on Frontline, Feb 14th - Film based on Slutkin's work.