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Black men receive longer sentences for similar crimes

Facing sentencing in a criminal case can be a dangerous time for any defendant, but it can be even more complex for Black men in Washington and throughout the United States. In a study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, it was shown that Black men tend to receive significantly longer sentences than white men convicted of the same or similar crimes. The sentences of Black men can be 19.1 percent longer than those of white men on average, found commission researchers when examining sentencing data for people convicted between 2012 and 2016.

The Sentencing Commission is a bipartisan and independent agency that falls under the mandate of the U.S. federal judiciary. In its study, the commission found that the racial disparity in sentencing cannot be explained away by factors like criminal records, past violence or related concerns. In fact, when taking factors such as prior violence into account, the disparity actually rose; Black men were sentenced to periods 20.4 percent longer on average than white men with similar histories of violence, according to data collected in 2016.

The Sentencing Commission report follows a prior study conducted in 2012 that examined the results following a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed judges to enhance criminal sentences based on their own judgment instead of requiring them to follow guidelines from the commission.

The U.S. has 2.2 million people incarcerated in prison, the highest in the world, noted the Sentencing Project, another organization that examines U.S. criminal justice and sentencing policy. Black men are six times more likely to be jailed than white men, and one out of every 10 Black men are in jail or prison on any given day, according to 2015 data.

Any person facing criminal charges is dealing with the potential of a range of complications at trial and sentencing, from conscious or unconscious racial bias to a variety of other factors. A criminal defense attorney can ensure that any defendant receives vigorous representation at trial and in plea negotiations as well as at the sentencing phase.

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