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January 16, 2012

"Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences"

The title of this post is the title of this important and potent new paper by Professors Marit Rehavi and Sonja Starr, and it seems especially fitting to post it on MLK Day.  Here is the abstract:

This paper assesses the extent to which the large disparities in sentencing outcomes between black and white defendants can be explained by disparities in prosecutors' initial choice of charges, a critical stage overlooked by existing studies of sentencing disparities. To analyze charging, we pair newly constructed measures of charge severity with a newly linked dataset that traces federal cases from the arrest through sentencing.

We find that black arrestees, especially black males, face significantly more severe charges conditional on arrest offense and other observed characteristics.  The disparities in the use of charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences are particularly striking. These disparities appear to be major drivers of sentencing disparity.  Black males face significantly longer sentences than white males do, on average and at almost every decile of the sentence-length distribution, even after conditioning on arrest offense, criminal history, district, and age.  However, the addition of controls for initial charges renders most of these disparities insignificant.  Indeed, the otherwise-unexplained racial disparities at the mean and at most of the deciles can be almost entirely explained by disparities in a single prosecutorial decision: whether to file a charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence.

January 16, 2012 at 06:56 PM | Permalink


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The feminist lawyer and its male running dogs now fully controlling the criminal justice system is as racist as the founders of feminism in the 19th Century. The defense bar will never attack these feminist racists with demands for e-discovery seeking improper motives, including animus toward males and blacks. It is legal malpractice to not demand the work and personal computers of the prosecution. However, the defense bar needs the prosecution for its job more than it needs the client, a fungible commodity to the feminist lawyer. The wimpiness of the defense bar shows that it is not really a defense bar. It is a government make work for worthless losers. Pro se criminal defendants have the same results at trial than these rent seeking worthless government dependent workers.

The lawyer on the bench is also a racist feminist since lots of judges were prosecutors.

Child porn on any prosecutor computer should be referred to the FBI for investigation.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 17, 2012 5:00:50 AM

And some people think advisory guidelines are the biggest cause of disparity in federal sentencing. Ha.

Posted by: 470 | Jan 17, 2012 4:00:26 PM

In practicing the law regardless of colour and race we must be fair enough in giving the sentence to everybody.

Posted by: Jezreel | Feb 7, 2012 9:02:01 AM

Justice must be blind folded to everybody.

Posted by: What to do in London | Feb 7, 2012 9:05:41 AM

I am an accountant, but i am full understand the the justice and law pertaining to sentencing. According to law justice is for all with equal treatment regardless of who you are.

Posted by: Healthy Options | Feb 7, 2012 9:08:52 AM

Good Blog: however I need a California study on racial disparity non-violent arrestee in san francisco county are Northern California; thank you in advance

Posted by: Thomas Wheeler | Mar 19, 2012 2:10:58 AM

I am an accountant, but i am full understand the the justice and law pertaining to sentencing. According to law justice is for all with equal treatment regardless of who you are.

Posted by: serviced apartments london | Nov 13, 2012 7:02:13 AM

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