Racial Disparity in Sentencing
November 29, 2010
Racial Disparity in Sentencing
Although the criminal justice system improved over the years, racial disparity and discrimination contributes to the overrepresentation of minorities in prison. Currently, the United States is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse nations (Scully, 2000). However, Caucasian is still the predominant race in American society, and statistics show judges sentence minorities to prison more than Caucasians, who committed the same crime. Clearly, studies reveal race is still an influential component in this country’s criminal justice system. Consequently, racial disparity is highly apparent in sentencing (Scully, 2000). Racial Disparity and its Contributors
Racial disparity reveals the differences between groups represented in society (Rivera, 2010). “Racial disparity in the criminal justice system occurs when the proportion of a racial or ethnic group within the control of the system is greater than the proportion of such groups in the general population” (Sentencing Project, 2000, p. 1). In a sense, racial disparity identifies the differences of one person from everyone else. Therefore, disparity considers all variables that help classify individuals in categories (Karen, 2010).
Four reasons exist and cause racial disparity to prosper in the criminal justice system. The contributors are venue and jury selection, ineffective assistance of counsel and procedural bars, prosecutorial discretion, and the dominance of racist jurors (Misha, 2005). As for prosecutorial discretion, a Caucasian who committed a white-collar crime will not spend a day in jail, whereas a minority offender who committed a street crime will suffer harsh penalties. Ineffective assistance of counsel obviously shows that the defense attorney failed to represent the defendant vigorously. Jury selection and venue are vital because the location of trial is significant and the selection of jurors is vital. However, prosecutors and defense attorneys question potential jurors in the presence of others who cause them to give politically correct answers rather than answering truthfully (Misha, 2005). Consequently, bias or prejudice people become jurors. Last, the belief racial juries contribute to the occurrence of racial disparity is self-explanatory. For example, if the defendant is African American and every juror is white, of course, racial disparity is palpable (Misha, 2005). Racial Disparity in Sentencing
According to the Sentencing Project (2005), evidence shows that direct forms of discrimination toward minority offenders are prevalent. Research revealed that during the sentencing phase, minority offenders are at a disadvantage when facing state and federal judges. Judges sentence young African Americans along with Latino offenders to more severe punishments when compared to established Caucasian males. Furthermore, Black defendants go to jail more than white offenders during pretrial stages and pay higher trial penalties. As for White offenders, they receive more lenient sentences when compared to minorities. Additionally, minority offenders are not able to bail out jail before trial as the courts somewhat enable Caucasian offenders to bail out (Sentencing Project, 2005). Another factor identifying the prevalence of racial disparity in sentencing is the fact White offenders retain private attorneys whereas minority offenders cannot afford to hire attorneys and rely on underpaid public defenders. Research shows that when Black males victimize Whites, they receive harsher sentences than they would if they had victimized another Black person. Moreover, Black offenders acquire harsher sentences for low-level drug offenses, whereas a Caucasian, low-level drug offender is awarded significant leniency (Sentencing Project, 2005). Examples and Statistics of Racial...