Black men received roughly 5% to 10% longer prison sentences than white men


During an 8-year period between 2005 and 2012, black men received roughly 5% to 10% longer prison sentences than white men for similar crimes, after accounting for the facts surrounding the case per a US Department of Justice funded study.

While there has been a trend toward more lenient sentences overall, white males have seen larger declines in average prison sentences than black males.

Black males did not benefit as much from this increased leniency, which widened the existing racial sentencing disparity between these two groups. The disparity  between black and white males narrowed as crimes became more serious.

Race probably correlated with other characteristics—such as education, income, demeanor, and location—which might have accounted partially for the differing sentences among white and black males.

Judge Effect

The exercise of prosecutorial discretion did not change much during the study period, although racial disparity increased during that time. The trend is likely attributable to individual judges’ behavior. Evidence from the study suggests considerable differences in the sentences that judges assigned for white and black offenders.

Judges disagreed about the relative sentences for white and black males, and some judges gave black males especially longer sentences. However, judges who imposed above-average prison terms on black offenders also tended to impose above-average prison terms on white offenders.

And judges who sentenced white offenders to below-average prison terms also commonly gave below-average prison terms to black offenders. Sentences were disparate in that similarly situated offenders who had committed similar crimes received sentences that differed depending on the judge who imposed the sentence.

Female sentencing Judges were found to disagree more about the sentences for females than the sentences to be imposed on males.

As a whole, females and white males received less severe sentences than black males over the 8-year study period. Black females were found to not be disadvantaged compared to white females.



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