African-American men serve prison sentences that are on average almost 20 percent longer than those served by white men for similar crimes, according to a study released Tuesday by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
The group's analysis of sentencing data for whites and blacks between the years 2008 and 2016 revealed that black men serve sentences that are on average 19.1 percent longer than the average length of sentences for white men.
The disparity, the commission says, cannot be explained by whether offenders have a history of violence.
"After controlling for a wide variety of sentencing factors, the Commission found that Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences than similarly situated White male offenders, and that female offenders of all races received shorter sentences than White male offenders," reads the study's conclusion.
"The Commission also found that prior violent crimes, as documented in an offender’s criminal history, do not significantly contribute to demographic differences in federal sentencing," it adds.
The study's release comes just months after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE reversed Obama-era guidelines on sentencing, instructing prosecutors instead to charge suspects with the most serious crime possible. The Obama administration had sought to ease mandatory minimum sentences on nonviolent drug crimes.
"It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense," Sessions wrote in a memo in May. "This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency."
The move was condemned by criminal justice reform advocates, who have seen the majority of their efforts stymied by the Justice Department under Sessions.
“We should be treating our nation’s drug epidemic for what it is — a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy. This isn’t about legalizing drugs. It is about making the punishment more fitting and not ruining more lives," Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment Masks and vaccines: What price freedom? MORE (R-Ky.) wrote in response to Sessions's move.
“Each case should be judged on its own merits. Mandatory minimums prevent this from happening.”