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Sentencing-Guideline Study Finds Continuing Disparities -NYT [View All]

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Rose Siding Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-27-04 10:33 AM
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Sentencing-Guideline Study Finds Continuing Disparities -NYT
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 (AP) - The number of minority inmates in federal penitentiaries, as a percentage of all federal prisoners, has increased sharply since sentencing guidelines took effect in 1987 and now accounts for a majority of the prison population, a study reviewing 15 years of data has concluded.

The study was conducted by the United States Sentencing Commission, which sets the guidelines for federal judges. The panel examined how well the guidelines had brought uniformity to punishments, and found that while sentencing had become "more certain and predictable," disparities still existed among races and regions of the country, with blacks generally receiving harsher punishment than whites.
Whites made up 35 percent of the prison population in 2002, a sharp decline from nearly 60 percent in 1984, according to the report. It attributed the decrease to a striking growth in Hispanics imprisoned on immigration charges - to 40 percent of federal prisoners, from about 15 percent.

In addition, the gap in punishment between blacks and whites widened. While blacks and whites received an average sentence of slightly more than two years in 1984, blacks now stay in prison for about six years, compared with about four years for whites. The report attributed this disparity in part to harsher mandatory minimum sentences that Congress imposed for drug-related crimes like cocaine possession. In 2002, 81 percent of offenders in such cases were black.

The study found harsher punishments generally in the South than in the Northeast and the West, though it concluded that legal differences in individual cases "explain the vast majority of variation among judges and regions."
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