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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Criminal Defense > New Study Shows Racial Disparity in Sentencing Times

New Study Shows Racial Disparity in Sentencing Times

A new study released by the United States Sentencing Commission shows that African-American men are sentenced to more time when convicted of the same crimes committed by white men. An African-American man will spend, on average, 20 percent longer in prison than a white man, even if the crimes were identical. The study was controlled with a variety of factors, including citizenship, weapon possession, age, education and prior criminal history.

The disparity in sentencing is not new. For example:

  • Between 1998 and 2003, African-American men were sentenced to time with a difference of 11.2 percent
  • Between 2007 and 2011, that percentage increased to 19.5 percent
  • Most recently, between 2011 and 2016, the percentage was at 19.1 percent

Who’s to Blame for the Disparity?

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Booker. In that ruling, the high court determined that judges would have more discretion when it came to sentencing. The disparity in sentencing between African-Americans and whites has grown since that ruling.

Judges don’t shoulder all the blame. It is also thought that prosecutors have some responsibility for the sentencing differences. Prosecutors have broad discretion on whether they charge a person, whether they take a case to trial or whether they offer a plea bargain. Not only are African-Americans serving longer sentences, they are more likely to be sentenced to prison.

Other Findings in the Study

An African-American of either gender is five times more likely to be sentenced to time behind bars than a white person. Other findings released by the Sentencing Project include:

  • There are 12 states in which African-Americans comprise more than half of the prison population: Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey, Mississippi, Michigan, Maryland, Louisiana, Illinois, Georgia, Delaware and Alabama.
  • In Oklahoma, African-American adult males are sentenced to jail or prison time at a rate of 1 in 15 people.
  • Latinos are 1.4 times as likely as whites to be sentenced to jail time.

The criminal justice system is plagued by disparity when it comes to race. Experts agree that criminal justice reform is long overdue in ensuring that genders and races are treated equally in the eyes of the law, particularly when it comes to sentencing. There are many opinions on how this can happen but, as of yet, no one strategy has been agreed upon. Until reform of some type is made, it is likely that the disparity will remain steady if not rise.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in DeKalb County, you are facing serious consequences and your situation should not be taken lightly. Call our office today to schedule your free case evaluation and discover more about your legal rights. We are available to help you through this stressful and frightening situation, and we will put our experience to work for you. Reach out to our team or browse our website for more information about the types of cases we handle.

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