With or Without Sentencing Guidelines, Black Men Get Screwed
According to a new study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, prison sentences handed out to black men in the past seven years have been almost 20% longer than sentences given to white men for the same crimes. From the WSJ:
In the two years after the [2005 US v Booker ruling, which gave federal judges more discretion in sentencing], sentences of blacks were on average 15.2% longer than the sentences of similarly situated whites, according to the Sentencing Commission report. Between December 2007 and September 2011, the most recent period covered in the report, sentences of black males were 19.5% longer than those for whites. The analysis also found that black males were 25% less likely than whites in the same period to receive a sentence below the guidelines' range.
There's a quandary, though. Since judges have been allowed to use their own discretion more in sentencing, black men are receiving harsher sentences. But when judges did have to follow sentencing guidelines, those guidelines did things like impose far stronger penalties for crack than for powder cocaine—meaning black men tended to receive harsher sentences.
It's almost as if, no matter which way you look at it, black men will inevitably be screwed by the US criminal justice system.