A new study finds that Black offenders are much more likely than white or Hispanic ones to get federal life sentences. The analysis published in the journal Criminology examined more than 366,000 offenders convicted and sentenced in 90 federal district courts from 2010 to 2017, according to Axios.
Of that group of people, researchers found that Black offenders accounted for fewer than a third of all cases, but made up nearly half of those eligible for life behind federal bars, . Comparatively, White offenders accounted for more than a third of all cases but made up less than a quarter of those eligible to serve life sentences. Additionally, Hispanic offenders were more likely to be eligible for life sentences than white offenders, but were half as likely as Black offenders to get handed life sentences.
It is not exactly clear why this is the case. The ways in which Hispanics self-identified prior to changes with the 2020 census may have impacted the results, Axios notes.
“Two out of three people serving life terms are defendants of color, and some believe that life sentences are fraught with racial bias,” Brian D. Johnson, a University of Maryland criminology and criminal justice professor who led the study, said in a statement.
Here is more on the study, per Axios:
The intrigue: The study comes as advocates in various cities seek to advance police and criminal justice reforms amid rising crime.
- Rev. Markel Hutchins, CEO of MovementForward, told Axios the study showed that Black leaders, police organizations and lawmakers need to work together to end racial disparities.
- “We have to deal with issues of systematic racism and inequity ... from those who get the most speeding tickets to those who get the healthiest sentences for federal crimes.”
Don’t forget: The First Step Act, signed by President Trump, reduced some federal sentences and gave judges more sentencing flexibility.
The NAACP reports that there are three million people in prison and jail today and that Black people are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites.
Another statistic from the NAACP: “If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.”