Racial Disparity in Sentencing

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Racial Disparity in Sentencing Lori Raynor University of Phoenix Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice CJA/423 Ron McGee September 06, 2010 Abstract In this paper I will illustrate racial disparity in sentencing in the criminal justice system. The causes of racial disparity and the reasons it is on the rise, the research statistics, and the proposed solutions are discussed. Racial Disparity in Sentencing The intersection of racial dynamics with the criminal justice system is one of longstanding duration. In earlier times, courtrooms in many jurisdictions were comprised of all white decision-makers. Today, there is more diversity of leadership in the court system, but race still plays a critical role in many…show more content…
Since the inception of mandatory minimum cocaine laws in 1986 to the advent of the Armstrong case, not a single white offender had been convicted of a crack cocaine offense in federal courts serving Los Angeles and its six surrounding counties. Rather, virtually all white offenders were prosecuted in state court, where they were not subject to that drug’s lengthy mandatory minimum sentences. The impact of the decision to prosecute the black defendants in federal court was significant. In federal court they faced a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 10 years and a maximum of life without parole if convicted of selling more than 50 grams of crack. By contrast, if prosecuted in California state court, the defendants would have received a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of five years (United States v. Armstrong, 1996). Questionable prosecutorial discretion: Racial disparities are also found in motions from prosecutors to depart from the sentencing guidelines. Studies have shown that downward departures are most frequently granted to whites, who receive lower sentences for providing substantial assistance in 25% of their cases, compared to 18.3% of blacks. With respect to cocaine cases, nearly 33% of powder cocaine defendants received a departure for substantial assistance, compared to 28% of crack cocaine cases (The Kennedy Commission, 2003). Possible solutions to decrease racial
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