Study Shows Black Americans Are More Likely to Receive Federal Life Sentences Than Whites or Hispanics

Black Americans are more likely to get federal life sentences than whites or Latinos, a new study has found.

Why it matters: The analysis, published recently in Criminology, further illustrates the racial disparities of federal sentencing at a time when advocates are pushing for sentencing reforms for nonviolent offenders.

Details: An examination of more than 366,000 offenders convicted and sentenced in 90 federal district courts from 2010 to 2017 found racial disparities around life sentences targeting Black offenders. (The research excluded offenses related to immigration law.)

  • More than 4,800 of all offenders were eligible for life imprisonment — and almost 1,200 received life sentences, the study found.
  • Black offenders accounted for fewer than a third of all cases but constituted nearly half of those eligible for life sentences.
  • White offenders accounted for more than a third of all cases but constituted less than a quarter of those eligible for life sentences.

Between the lines: Hispanic offenders were more likely to be eligible for life sentences than white offenders, yet half as likely as Black offenders to receive life sentences.

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SOURCE: Axios, Russell Contreras