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November 26, 2004

Race and gender disparity and discrimination

I hope everyone had a joyful Thanksgiving; as I predicted, my day was stuffed with family, food and football.  I even avoided thinking about Blakely most of the day (until my wife joked after the meal that she was feeling tired from the tryptophan-fan).  And I am already looking forward to all the leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, a leftover pre-Thanksgiving task for me was to link to this AP story from Wednesday about the US Sentencing Commission's 15-year report.  I find it interesting, though perhaps not surprising, that the AP story, as well as the Wall Street Journal story on the USSC report which also ran Wednesday, spotlights issues of race and concerns about racial disparities. 

Of course, the intersection of race and the criminal justice system is always an important topic, and the USSC report includes much noteworthy and disconcerting data about race.  But, as noted in this prior summary, the USSC report contained much more dramatic news about gender.  Here again is the gender "highlight" from the USSC report's executive summary:

Unlike race and ethnic discrimination, the evidence is more consistent that similar offenders are sometimes treated differently based on their gender. Gender effects are found in both drug and non-drug offenses and greatly exceed the race and ethnic effects discussed above. The typical male drug offender has twice the odds of going to prison as a similar female offender. Sentence lengths for men are typically 25 to 30 percent longer for all types of cases.

Though it is perhaps not surprising, I think it is noteworthy that concerns about racial discrimination make headlines while the evidence of gender discrimination does not even get mentioned.  Perhaps this is because no one gets seriously aggrieved to hear men are treated more harshly at sentencing.  Indeed, this very interesting article from Vermont, entitled "Are women offenders getting raw deal from Vermont courts?," suggests folks do get seriously aggrieved if it seems women are treated more harshly at sentencing than men.

November 26, 2004 at 08:13 AM | Permalink


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