A recent report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission indicates that black men serve longer sentences than white men convicted of the same crimes. The commission is an independent and bipartisan agency of the judicial branch of the federal government. It is tasked with issuing sentencing guidelines and monitoring how closely these guidelines are followed by federal judges in New York and across the country.
The USSC’s Demographic Differences in Sentencing report, which is based on data gathered between 2012 and 2016, reveals that the custodial sentences handed down to African American male criminal defendants are 19.1 percent longer on average than those received by white male offenders. The report also suggests that this sentencing disparity cannot be explained by an offender’s prior history of violent conduct. When violence is taken into account, the disparity in sentencing between black and white offenders increases to 20.4 percent, according to the USSC.
The figures concerning the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. criminal justice system are difficult to explain. According to the nonprofit group The Sentencing Project, black men in the U.S. are 600 percent more likely to be put in jail than white men. Approximately one out of every 10 black American men in their 30s is locked up in a jail or prison on any given day.
Many criminal defense attorneys are familiar with these sobering figures. Therefore, they may pay especially close attention to police reports when they represent African American or Hispanic clients who claim that they have been treated unfairly. When evidence emerges indicating that rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution may have been violated, defense attorneys could seek to have the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.