“Racial Disparity in Sentencing”
Many people feel that race is no longer an issue in today’s society. Race still does and always will play a major role in people today and in the many years to come. Racial disparity is a major issue that will especially in the criminal justice field. From the arresting officers, to the booking process, all the way down to the court system. The country that’s suppose to protect the rights of its citizens and “follows” the belief that we the people are created equally are not standing by their own word. Instead of African Americans being treated equally they are given unfair sentences and still treated like slaves in a court system that is supposed to protect us.
Racial disparity is wrong on many levels. I believe on the contrary of many people’s beliefs blacks are still handled differently from whites not only in the courtroom but also in the way that they are handled by law enforcement. According to a report written by, Tushar Kansal, he believes that “Racial discrimination generally does not exist in the explicit fashion that it did in the American South 50 years ago, in which blacks and whites were routinely handled differently by law enforcement and judicial authorities”. This has proved to be untrue on many levels. Minorities are more likely to be stopped by law enforcement, as well as being battered by law enforcement. They are more prone to unfair treatment by law enforcement. Minorities are also more likely to be prosecuted on a case and usually receive harsher sentencing for crimes. Studies have shown that minority defendants are more likely to receive harsher sentences than other races.
Not only are they arrested more likely than other races they also lack the proper council to help prepare them for pretrial detention and defending their case. Minorities are also less likely to receive an adequate and efficient plea bargain. Not having the proper type of council is the gateway to having a case deteriorate. Having the proper council can help put the right evidence in to play and eventually get the defendant off or help them to receive a lesser sentence. Blacks that are convicted of harming whites are more likely to receive the death penalty than blacks that harm other blacks.
Minorities are more likely to be sentenced brutally when it comes to drug crimes and offences involving property. For example, crack cocaine carries a larger prison sentence than powdered cocaine. According to a report compiled by the U.S. News Library Staff, blacks accounted for 82 percent of crack-cocaine arrest in 2006 while Hispanic and whites accounted for 72 percent of powder cocaine arrest. Blacks are more likely to be in possession of crack cocaine, while Hispanics and whites are more likely to be in possession of powder cocaine. Because of these facts there is now a minimum prison penalty for a first time trafficking offense involving only 5 grams or more of crack cocaine. Whites and Hispanics get off on lesser charges by having a maximum of only 500 grams or more of powdered cocaine in order to receive the 5 year minimum.
There is even racial disparity when it comes to issuing the death penalty. Statistically
· Black defendants convicted of harming white victims suffer harsher penalties than
blacks who commit crimes against other blacks or white defendants who harm whites;
· Black and Latino defendants tend to be sentenced more severely than comparably
situated white defendants for less serious crimes, especially drug and property crimes.
Studies that examine death-penalty cases have generally found that:
· In the vast majority of cases, if the murder victim is white, the defendant is more
likely to receive a death sentence;
· In a few jurisdictions, notably the federal system, minority defendants (especially
blacks) are more likely to receive a death sentence.
While this report deals primarily with sentencing processes and outcomes, it is important
to keep in mind that the criminal justice system is an interdependent process and that
effects are cumulative. For example, while this report does not address aspects of
criminal justice such as the manner in which laws are enforced or the rates at which
different populations have parole revoked and must face resentencing, both of these
factors, along with many others, affect sentencing practices. For example, a study of the
Maryland capital punishment system published in 2003 found that although the race of
the victim did not affect the decision of the jury to sentence the defendant to death,
among all death-eligible homicides, killers of white victims were still three times more
likely to be sentenced to death than comparably situated killers of non-white victims.2
The disparity between white-victim and non-white-victim cases in this instance arose
from the decisions of the state’s attorney to seek, and follow through with, death penalty
prosecutions more often in white-victim cases than in non-white-victim cases. In other
words, although there is no evidence in this case that the specific decision to sentence to
death is racially discriminatory, the sentencing outcome is nevertheless racially
discriminatory because of actions taken during another phase of the criminal justice
1 Spohn, Cassia. “Thirty Years of Sentencing Reform: The Quest for a Racially Neutral Sentencing
Process.” Criminal Justice, National Institute of Justice, Vol. 3, 2000: 427-501; p. 453.
2 Paternoster, Raymond, and Robert Brame. “An Empirical Analysis of Maryland’s Death Sentencing
System with Respect to the Influence of Race and Legal Jurisdiction,” 2003 (Final Report). Retrieved from
http://www.urhome.umd.edu/newsdesk/pdf/finalrep.pdf on July 27, 2004.
The areas in which evidence regarding racially discriminatory sentencing outcomes will
be examined are:
· Direct racial discrimination;
· Interaction of race/ethnicity with other offender characteristics;
· Interaction and indirect effects of race/ethnicity and process-related factors;
· Interaction of race of the offender with race of the victim;
· Interaction of race/ethnicity and type of crime;
· Capital punishment.
DIRECT RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
This section examines the evidence for racially discriminatory sentencing outcomes for
minority defendants in the aggregate. The data that is used simply looks at sentencing
outcomes for racial and ethnic groups as a whole, without incorporating any of the factors
discussed in following sections, such as type of crime, age and gender of the defendant,
· There is evidence of direct racial discrimination (against minority defendants in
· Evidence of direct discrimination at the federal level is more prominent than at
the state level;
· Blacks are more likely to be disadvantaged in terms of sentence length at the
federal level, whereas Latinos are more likely to be disadvantaged in terms of the
decision to incarcerate;
· At the state level, both Latinos and blacks are far more likely to be disadvantaged
in the decision to incarcerate or not, as opposed to the decision regarding sentence