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race plays a role in the different sentencing ranges applicable to different crimes.
Race and Sentencing Guidelines
Race has been a consideration in sentencing guidelines for quite some time. Many individuals believe that those who are not Caucasian receive sentences that are harsher and punishment that is stricter than others
Because of this, there is concern that perhaps the sentencing guidelines and the entire criminal justice system is racially biased. This is evidenced not only by individuals of other races who feel that they have been treated unfairly but by statistics which indicate the number of non-Caucasian individuals on death row and within the prison system in general.
The purpose of this paper will be to show that there is disparity between the sentencing guidelines that are given to Caucasians and to non-Caucasians and to look at the extent race plays a part in the prosecution for different crimes. This is not only the case for small crimes or large crimes, but for all crimes across the spectrum. In an effort to be fair, opposing views will be discussed and the problems and proposed solutions will be discussed as well. By discussing all of these issues it can be seen that individuals who are of minority races often meet with harsher punishments than others who come into the criminal justice system.
There are many reasons that this happens, and one of those could potentially be the fact that many of these minority individuals do not have the finances to hire good lawyers
. Many of these individuals end up with public defenders and while public defenders do the best for their clients they are often overworked and underpaid. Because of this, individuals that require public defenders often do not get as good of a chance at being paroled or having a lighter sentence than those that can afford high-priced attorneys. There are many more minorities in the prison system and on death row than there are Caucasian individuals, and there are more men than women. For the purposes of this paper the gender differences will not be an issue. Whether they are male or female will be irrelevant; the only concern will be with what race they belong to. According to the Supreme Court, there should be equal treatment for all individuals who are found to the guilty of an infraction of the law
. This should be true regardless of the race of the individuals but sadly there seems to be loopholes in the criminal justice system which cause many of these individuals to fall into difficulty with the law and then to have trouble getting out of this cycle of scrutiny and arrest
There are Caucasian individuals in this country that would argue that minority races have more crime and that they are not as good of individuals as those of Caucasian ancestry. However, this does not necessarily mean that this observation is accurate. One must consider the possibility that those that are of minority race in this country are not committing crimes at a higher rate, but that they are being targeted at a higher rate and therefore the crimes that they do commit are being discovered more than the crimes that are committed by Caucasian individuals
. Many of these crimes relate to drugs and so the main focus of this paper will be on the issue of drug crimes. However, other crimes will be considered in order to show that this is something that travels across the entire criminal spectrum and is not limited to one area of crime. This is important to understand because it indicates the racial biases that individuals in this country hold are not related to the particular type of crime and are tied only to the race of the individual in question.
It is not so much the particular police officers that cause any type of issue but it is the criminal justice system itself. The court system and the lawyers that these individuals get are often biased, or at least seemingly so, against individuals of minority races and therefore much of what they attempt to do to help Caucasian individuals they will not do to help minority individuals
. They must operate within the confines of the law, but there are many loopholes and much room for discretion on the part of many judges. A judge who wishes to make an example out of an individual who has committed a particular crime can easily pick someone who is of minority race and get away with this idea because the judge has indicated that this person is being used as an example. In this way, this person can be punished more harshly than would normally happen but the judge will not have any concerns over being questioned about his bias on that individual's race.
It is also true that most individuals who operate the court systems are Caucasian males and therefore it is quite likely that there is much bias against those of other races. While it is difficult to prove much of this there is enough evidence given in studies and various articles that will be discussed in this document to lend some credibility to this opinion. Because individuals of minority races are troubled by criminal activity and harsher sentences more often than those of Caucasian origin, these individuals often argue that authorities are targeting them and that Caucasian individuals committing the same crime would go free or receive a lighter sentence
. As has been mentioned, this is very difficult to prove because judges and lawyers as well as police officers who obviously and blatantly allow this kind of thing to happen would receive difficulty from many others who would believe that this is not the proper way to do things. However, because there are so many various ways where individuals can to get by with punishing someone differently than they have punished someone else there is no real way to say that these individuals are doing anything wrong and prove it with any type of means that would require them to stop and rethink what they are doing.
For example, if sentencing guidelines for a particular crime are between 5 and 10 years there is no reason why a judge cannot give a white man five years and a black man nine years. Even for people that might say that this was unduly biased or racist in some way toward the minority individual, there is no way for the judge to end up in any kind of trouble for doing this because he followed the sentencing guidelines that were available and stayed within the limits offered to him to sentence each individual. There are many ways that work to make it sound as though one person did something worse than another, and this can greatly affect their sentencing. This can have to do with the type of weapon that an individual may have had, the intent that the individual is believed to have had at the time, and whether he had a prior record of any type of arrests
Because there is an opinion in this country that black and other minority individuals are targeted more often the white individuals, it is quite possible that minority individuals will have an arrest record. This is not due to the fact that he has committed more crimes than a Caucasian individual, but has to do with the fact that authority figures appear to be more willing to arrest and prosecute someone who is of minority descent
. It is clear that something needs to be done about this issue because many individuals who are being punished unfairly are being required to suffer with the consequences of a corrupt criminal justice system
. This does not mean to imply that individuals in the system are all this way or that there are no minority individuals in the higher levels of the criminal justice system. However, there are a majority of Caucasian individuals in this system and many of them appear to have biases in the way that they sentence individuals who are not of their race.
Is It Discrimination?
It is difficult to say exactly what should be done about this, however, because it is a problem that is far-reaching and has such a wide range that it would be very difficult to correct it in all areas of the country and with all judges that may feel this way. Naturally, it is wrong for these individuals to treat someone of one race differently than they treat someone of another race. Constitutional measures and all other information that these judges are to go by specifically prohibits them from treating someone different based on their race
. This is discrimination of a very strong form and it is something that people insist that they do not tolerate in this country.
However, despite the insistence that this is not tolerated it goes on every day in this country when individuals…[continue]
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The judge must choose a sentence from within the guideline range unless the court identifies an aggravating or mitigating circumstance that was not adequately considered by the Sentencing Commission. In mandatory minimum drug cases, judges can depart only upon motion from the government stating that a defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person. All guideline drug sentences are indirectly affected by the mandatory minimums.
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