Black and Hispanic Americans receiving disproportionately harsher sentences

By Andrea Cipriano . . . 

In a recent study published in the journal Sexual Abuse, the researchers explored what they said was a trend in more severe punishment over the past decade since Congress has enacted several pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the punishment in federal sex offender and child pornography cases.

The researchers University of Texas at San Antonio criminology and criminal justice professors Richard Hartley and Alexander Testa, and alumnus Erika Martinez, noted that convictions in federal courts have increased over the last two decades.

Most studies of federal sentencing have focused on “understanding what influences judicial decisions and whether racial/ethnic disparities in federal sentencing practices exist, regardless of the type of crime charged,” Hartley explained in an interview with the university journal, UTSA Today.

“Little research, however, has examined the determinants of sentencing outcomes for those convicted of federal sex offenses.”

The results of their research “generally demonstrates that male and minority defendants receive harsher punishments than their female and white counterparts convicted of similar offenses,” the report outlines.

Recent USSC statistics cited by the authors show that just more than 70 percent of those serving time in federal prison are racial or ethnic minorities, so these findings align with known information.

To that end, the researchers were shocked to find that despite federal prison facilities being populated with ethnic minorities, they’re not typically the individuals being convicted.

“The majority of those convicted of receipt or possession of child pornography are White (86 percent); there are very few Black (4 percent), Hispanic (10 percent), or Native American (<1 percent) individuals charged with this offense.”

Out of the individuals who are convicted of committing sexual abuse offenses, Black and Hispanic Americans receive longer sentences over time compared to White Americans.

To put this into statistical context, the authors write that Black individuals convicted of sexual abuse during FY 2006-2017 had a 1,330.47 percent increase in their sentences, whereas White individuals saw a decrease of 8.66 percent in their sentences.

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