Racial Disparity in Sentencing

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:Law

Document 1

Also, the courtrooms in various jurisdictions consisted of decisionmakers who were all white. However, in the contemporary society, the criminal justice system has embraced racial diversity in leadership in the courtrooms. Still, even though racial discrimination is intolerable and violates the right of fair and just treatment under the law, race continues to play a crucial part in numerous outcomes within the system with people in the minority being more susceptible and victims to racial profiling when it comes to sentencing. Notably, this is indicated by evidence from studies that reveal that individuals from minority groups mainly African Americans and Latinos are at a higher disadvantage of receiving severe punishment and longer sentences as compared to their white counterparts.   Literature Review Introduction Many studies have explored the role of race in sentencing in the criminal justice system and whether the racial identity of victims or offenders influences the decisions of judicial authorities.

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Explicit Racial Discrimination While disregarding variables such as age, ethnicity, gender, and so on, evidence suggests that there is racial bias regarding sentencing outcomes (Barnes, Sloss, & Thaman, 2009). Unfortunately, minority groups are more on the receiving end with African Americans being more at a disadvantage concerning the length of the sentence. Moreover, direct discrimination seems to be more pronounced at the federal level as compared to the state level. At the state level, the minority groups affected negatively based on the judgment to detain or not as opposed to the decision about the length of the sentence are blacks and Latinos (Fleury-Steiner & Argothy, 2004). From an analysis of 40 published studies on racial disparity on sentencing, 32 examined the criminal justice system while the remaining eight explored the system at the federal level to see whether there was racial bias.

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Type of Crime This section explores how the race of the perpetrator interacts with the level of severity of the crime or the kind of offense. Generally, findings reveal that greater disparities are manifested in sentencing for minor offenses. According to Fleury-Steiner and Argothy (2004) people of color were more likely to be perceived as habitual offenders for less severe crime types that involved drugs and property. For drug crimes, the authors report that African Americans were about four times more likely than whites to be charged and sentenced on the same. On a much narrower perspective, the probability that a black person would be jailed for drug trafficking is 25 percent higher than that of a white person. Generally, this goes to nearly 72 percent for the whites and only 11 percent for the Latinos.

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Since the notion persists that drug users are likely to purchase drugs from individuals of the same racial background, the belief is carried into courts thus causing severe and longer durations of sentences for individuals of minority communities (Barnes, Sloss, & Thaman, 2009). Offender’s Race and Other Characteristics This section explores how the integration of the offender’s race with other characteristics such as age, socioeconomic status, and gender play a role in the sentencing outcomes. Barnes, Sloss, and Thaman (2009) conducted research on 42 cases from 1998. According to their findings, there is a pattern that links race and employment status to sentencing outcomes. Perhaps in a bid to reduce criminal cases, such societies face longer sentences that are sometimes harsher than that of the white population.

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In conclusion, this review of the existing literature has shown that even though the level of racial disparity might be less now compared to earlier times, discrimination still exists with individuals in the minority groups being more affected negatively. Data collected from multiple studies as discussed in the paper reveal that the African Americans and the Latinos are more on the receiving end. Compared to their white counterparts, these groups not only receive longer sentences for certain crimes but also severe sentencing. Having a criminal record for individuals in these racial groups also warrant their time in jail. Lethal 'borders'.  Punishment & Society, 6(1), 67-84. doi:10. 1177/1462474504039092 Lynch, M. Institutionalizing Bias: The Death Penalty, Federal Drug Prosecutions, and Mechanisms of Disparate Punishment. x Mustard, D.

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