I’m taking it for granted that anyone who knows anything about the American criminal-justice system could hazard a guess that black men end up serving longer prison sentences than white men who commit the same crimes. But just in case you needed solid evidence to cite in your next argument with your racist aunty, a new study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission is here to help.
The commission’s analysis of data, ranging from 2012 to 2016, shows that black offenders continued to receive, on average, sentences that were 19.1 percent longer than those of white offenders who committed the same crime.
This disparity in sentencing remained the same even when violence and the offender’s criminal history were taken into consideration. Among the study’s key findings: “Violence in an offender’s criminal history does not appear to contribute to the sentence imposed to any extent beyond its contribution to the offender’s criminal history score determined under the sentencing guidelines.”
Even taking into consideration a violent past, black men were still slapped with sentences that were on average 20.4 percent longer than those of their white counterparts.
The study also notes that the disparity between sentencing lies heavily on “non-government sponsored department of variances”—i.e., basically, the discretion of judges.
From the Washington Post:
Judges are less likely to voluntarily revise sentences downward for black offenders than for white ones, in other words. And even when judges do reduce black offenders’ sentences, they do so by smaller amounts than for white offenders.
It is currently a well-known and accepted fact that the United States has the largest prison population in the world. In 2015 the Sentencing Project noted that roughly 2.2 million people were currently incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails, marking a 500 percent increase in incarceration over the past 40 years.
Black men, the nonprofit found, were nearly six times as likely to be incarcerated as their white counterparts.
Now we can prove once again that not only are black men more likely to be imprisoned—they’re also likely to sit behind bars for a far longer time.
Read more at the Washington Post.