August 22, 2007
Intriguing new Wisconsin report on race and sentencing
Thanks to this post at Corrections Sentencing, I see that the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission has released a new report (available here) entitled, "Race & Sentencing in Wisconsin: Sentence and Offender Characteristics Across Five Criminal Offense Areas." The two-page executive summary suggests that this a very thoughtful effort reaching a number of interesting conclusions. Here are a few highlights from the executive summary:
- Racial disparities, when present, were typically found in sentence types (prison or probation), not sentence lengths.
- Where disparities existed, a higher percentage of Black and Hispanic offenders received prison sentences (versus probation) than White offenders.
- The amount of racial disparity found in sentence types typically increased as offense severity decreased....
- In Drug Trafficking cases, across the board, a higher percentage of Black offenders received prison sentences (versus probation) than White offenders. This disparity increased as offense seriousness decreased....
- Racial disparities were not typically found in sentence lengths....
As shown in the findings of this report, racial disparities do exist within Wisconsin's sentencing system. Yet, the true causes of these disparities are often difficult to identify and measure. Disparities in sentencing are most likely due to the confluence of multiple issues, and are the result of institutionalized defects rather than malicious intent. Due to the fact that race is generally correlated with many legal sentencing factors permissible for judges to consider — criminal record, employment history, and educational opportunities — it becomes a challenging directive to sufficiently separate the effect of race over other interconnected factors. Ultimately, more and better data is required to improve the strength and meaning of the results.
August 22, 2007 at 03:19 PM | Permalink
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The amount of racial disparity found in sentence types typically increased as offense severity decreased....
Not surprising, since the number of different appropriate sentence "types" decreases as the severity of the offense increases.
Posted by: | Aug 22, 2007 3:24:01 PM
In response to the previous comment about the report "Race and Sentencing in Wisconsin," when we talk about observed disparities in sentence "type," we're actually referring to observed disparities in prison rate for Black, White and Hispanic offenders, among other groups. The sentence "types" are just prison and probation. What we found, for crimes ranging from drug possession to burglary and sexual assault, is that Black and Hispanic offenders receive prison sentence more often than White offenders as we move down the scale, from Class C and D felonies, to Class H and I felonies.
Wisconsin Sentencing Commission
Posted by: arw | Aug 23, 2007 5:03:56 PM
Andrew, what happens when you control for prior records? Also, what role does geography play?
Posted by: federalist | Aug 24, 2007 6:05:31 PM
Where's S.cotus when you need him (or her)? Does my proposal to seize members of the family's property "work corruption of Blood"
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