Essay on Racial Sentencing Disparity And The Underlying Issue

Essay on Racial Sentencing Disparity And The Underlying Issue

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Possibly the most striking about the discussion of race is how frequently national attention to racial issues revolve around race and the criminal justice system. Over the past year alone, significant national events have had wide-spread media coverage involving race that has affected large portions of the nation. Although the United States is the most racially diverse nation in the world, a defendant’s race and/or ethnicity can affect the severity of their sentencing. This purpose of this paper is to examine racial sentencing disparity and the underlying issues contributing to this concern. Additionally, this paper will provide recommendations to be implemented in order to eliminate or at least reduce the level of sentencing disparity throughout the nation.
Defining Disparity
Within the United States judicial system, there appears to be an unrestrained discretion that is a direct result of sentencing disparity. In regards to sentencing, disparity exists when illegitimate or legally irrelevant defendant characteristics appear to directly affect the overall outcome of sentences imposed after all relevant information is taken into consideration. Within the judicial system, judges are not bound by sentencing set rules or guidelines, which allows for judges to create sentences for defendants as they deem appropriate. In many instances, judges have imposed different sentences for offenders who have very similar or sometimes identical situations, yet they’re crimes and characteristics are substantially different. Interestingly enough, an offender’s characteristics, specifically their race, can affect the severity of their sentencing. (Spohn, 2002).
It’s important to note that disparity is largely used interchangeably...

... middle of paper ...

... the nation are disproportionately occupied by Blacks and Hispanics. Interestingly enough, this trend holds true throughout most geographical areas, with this trend being highest in the Southern and state correctional systems. Blacks represent 38 percent of inmates in the federal prison systems and 55 percent in state prison systems. Hispanics on the other hand represent 28 percent of the federal prison systems and 17 percent of the state correctional population (Yeisley & Krebs, 2002). It’s important to note that racial disparities at the sentencing stage may not necessarily be a function of judicial bias; it can also result from race neutral sentencing policies with skewed racial effects. This is readily identifiable with many drug policies and habitual offender statutes that ultimately lead to disparity within the criminal justice system (Crow & Johnson, 2008).

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