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 28 comments


fritz 11 months 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 3 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 3 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 3 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 3 years ago
i was spit on for being white!!!! by a black!!! lets not pretend that it doesnt go both ways!!
o 3 years ago
to kjh its not like we forced them to do crack but there is about the same number of blacks as whites that do crack but blacks are beening put in jail longer for the same thing.
boogeymanatyourdoor 3 years ago
this goes out to "kjh". first off did you ever hear of margaret sanger(founder of plan parent hood), the queen mother of black abortion. i quote her when she said: on blacks, immigrants and indigents: "...human weeds,' 'reckless breeders,' 'spawning... human beings who never should have been born." margaret sanger, pivot of civilization, referring to immigrants and poor people also another quote from her:on the rights of the handicapped and mentally ill, and racial minorities: "more children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief aim of birth control." birth control review, may 1919, p. 12 i could keep quoting her. it's obvious how racist she is. at one point in her career she was invited to speak at a clan rally(forgot the name of the state now, but you can research it) now on to the crack thing. i can't remember the name of the book(the author was killed for his coming out of the book because of his mentioning of wall street and the drug trade)but from what this((white man))wrote in his book, cocaine was brought here during slavery to speed up production on the plantation. now, i heard a lot of bull coming from the mouths of whites in this country and abroad when it comes to the past and africans. they say "it's in the past forget it this is a new day, you have it better here then the blacks in africa" (which is not true at all). first off not all of africa is poverty stricken, just like not all of america is rich!! so far i haven't heard any of these whites mention to the jews: the past is in the past forget about hitler and what he and others of his ilk did to your race of people!! forget the fact that your people were tortured,experimented on and burned in ovens for no apparent reason other than you were jews. most likely you won't even comment my comment.
thomasina 4 years ago
good day to all. if i am correct crack is made from cocaine. blacks don't have planes, trains nor ships to bring cocaine into this country. to all the people that don't know the true history of the united states, not his story but the truth, you can start with reading slavery by another name by douglas a. blackmon (who is white). also check out the lawsuits from virgina and north carolina because women can't have children thanks to some doctors if that's what you want to call them. fact: i have two sisters that have no children because of the same reason and i don't live in the south. oh did you ever have anyone spit in your face just because of the color of your skin and for no other reason? i never did drugs or had kids that the government had to take care of. there's good and bad in every race. not just one.

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