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Report Finds Racial Sentencing Disparities Persist in Federal Courts

A new report, prepared by Abt Global for the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), examines patterns of federal sentencing disparity among white and black offenders by sentence received, and looks at judicial variation in sentencing since United States v. Booker in 2005, which ended the practice of enhancing sentences based on information not proven in court.

The report, released in October 2015, found that:

  • Judges have increased their discretion in sentencing since Booker;
  • Since Booker, black males have received longer sentences than white males after accounting for the facts surrounding each case, dissimilarities of the concentration of black offenders, and of sentencing leniency across federal circuits. It may be that other unobserved factors correlated with racial characteristics, such as educational level, which could influence sentencing; and
  • Black and white females receive similar sentences, but less harsh sentences than their male counterparts.

The report follows in the footsteps of other revealing Abt Global work in criminal justice, such as a 2014 article in Crime and Delinquency which found overestimation in the number of repeat offenders in prisons.

Read the federal sentencing report and the repeat offender article.

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