I ran across an article the other night that I found interesting. It stated that the racial gap in sentencing black and white men has increased since judicial discretion for sentencing was restored in 2005 by the Supreme Court. The prison sentences given to black males were almost 20% longer than for white males who committed similar crimes.

Judicial Discretion

Judicial discretion was implemented in 2005 when the US Supreme Court ruled in U.S v. Booker that the then existing law from 1984 should be struck down. Judges under the 1984 law were required to impose sentences according to sentencing guidelines and thus the discrepancy in sentencing would be less.

The study has been criticized for its results since it is the Sentencing Commission who is in charge of amending and reviewing the sentencing guidelines as well for not focusing on all segments of the criminal justice process. Critics have also argued that implementing restrictions on judges impeded them from the flexibility needed to navigate within inherently biased laws.

My personal opinion is that, in theory, the same crimes where factors are equal require the same punishment and racial prejudice has no place in the justice system. With that said, I feel it would be good to hear the opinions of experienced criminal defense attorneys who will have a better insight into this particular topic.

Do you think that there is bias in the sentencing stage of the process? What about other areas of the process?