Black Americans Given Longer Sentences than White Americans for Same Crimes

Saturday, February 04, 2012

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.

According to M. Marit Rehavi of the University of British Columbia and Sonja B. Starr, who teaches criminal law at the University of Michigan Law School, the racial disparities can be explained “in a single prosecutorial decision: whether to file a charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence….Black men were on average more than twice as likely to face a mandatory minimum charge as white men were, holding arrest offense as well as age and location constant.” Prosecutors are about twice as likely to impose mandatory minimums on black defendants as on white defendants.
In federal cases, black defendants faced average sentences of 60 months, while the average for white defendants was only 38 months.
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.”
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
A Good Reason to Do away with Mandatory Minimums? (by Sonja Starr, Nieman Watchdog)
Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences (by M. Marit Rehavi and Sonja B. Starr, University of Michigan Law & Econ, Empirical Legal Studies Center Paper)
Racial Inequalities in Conviction and Sentencing (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
See all 31 comments


brandnutopian 8 years ago
Hey Victor! "Black men were on average more than twice as likely to face a mandatory minimum charge as white men were, holding arrest offense as well as age and location constant.” It plainly states how the study was conducted and the 60% figure reflects those factors. Your trolling is pathetic.
Victor 8 years ago
Lol. This article contradicts itself, or tries to mislead people. Read the first sentence. It makes you think that the 60% disparity will come from comparing sentencing for 'same crime' situations. But if you read closely, the 60% thing is in a separate, unrelated sentence. Then near the end, it becomes clear, that the 60% disparity (60months vs 38 months) is for federal cases in general, not for same offenses. Then the last sentence, again, affirms what I'm saying by pointing out that this 60% federal disparity can be accounted by looking at the type of crime being committed and prior offenses. Disgraceful.
Penny 8 years ago
When I see comments that are so off the wall bonkers I can't help but say something.No we don't know why guards become guards in prison. For a paycheck? It's not for the loving atmosphere? Oh and as for being an inmate,gee they never put an innocent one away? Oh yeah they do. How about those that abuse their power and mistreat inmates? Our system does nothing to break the cycle.Then of course no one wants to hire a felon that doesn't know a trade and the circle continues. Some should never be allowed out but damn don't put all under one label!
fritz 9 years ago
Prejudice my Butt...why are these people going to jail in the first place. Jail is not supposed to be fair or nice. We all know why the guards want to be in the prison. Why do our men and women choose to keep sadistic people on salary? I don't feel sorry for any of them. They deserve each other
Megan 9 years ago
LoL, you can clearly see who is white and who is black or other on this forum. Clearly several of you have way too much time on your hands, jabbering about useless facts that are technically all biased. If only you all could understand the importance of absorbing what these studies show us! If only you all could analyze the results of these stories and stop fixating on one part of this discussion or evading the facts; by facts I mean the data and conclusion of these universities studies. Truly absorb the thought of "privileges." Just an unbiased bystander :)
Christian 9 years ago
It is unfortunate that this study does not make it clear how widely varying the criminal history of the defendants. I feel like this should be a constant as well, in order for this to be more meaningful.
brigitte garrett 11 years ago
you were spit on for being white. i'm sorry, but that doesn't include all blacks. my son was given a 90 year prison sentence for the same charge a white man got 7 years cos' he went to trial, and was convicted before trial started, with the racism so heavy in our world.if only my son was spit on instead of being shitted on, i would have my bloodline to continue, only my son is the last of the mohicans in my family. i call it genocide, i pray for the day my heart can feel something other than heartbreak. no murder and his first adult offense charged at 17 years old in tulsa, oklahoma,no rape this is not the bible belt like they claim,it is satanic the way the da's office is so zealous to give life to blacks for jaywalking.i need help in how to get this to be heard my son was not there when those ppl were robbed but the jury rather believe officers caught in lies, later on convicted than someone who was thetre with my son who has a track record for honesty. we're in hell
Mamoru 11 years ago
did this study factor in financial status as well? it's well known that he with the best lawyer wins. many black offenders come from traditionally poorer backgrounds and may be forced to rely on woefully inadequate public defenders to argue their case, which would automatically place them at a serious disadvantage against anyone who could afford proper council. i'm sure racism is a contributing factor, but i just want to make sure we're not ignoring the obvious.
sham 12 years ago
well it shows the racial makeup which is imbedded in the fabric of this country, blacks were not given the same opportunies as whites, whites were and still have priviledges,look at the history of this country, black men demoralizized/ demoralize there are many black men in the system who are innocent, and in longer jail time for minor offences
pfunk 12 years ago
i was spit on for being white!!!! by a black!!! lets not pretend that it doesnt go both ways!!

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