Report: Black Men Get 20 Percent Longer Prison Sentences

Image credit:

A relatively new report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission has put hard, cold numbers to the long-held suspicion, belief and now objective fact that African-American men are routinely issued demonstrably longer jail and prison sentences than white men for the exact same crimes.

According to the report, black men found guilty between December 2007 and September 2011 received sentences that were at least 19.5 percent longer than white men found guilty for the same or similar crimes.

Assistant law professor Lahny Rose Silva of Indiana University School of Law says that most objective observers agree with the Commission’s finding, but that it is simply impossible to actually, definitively, prove racial bias in sentencing on the part of judges.

“How do you prove racial bias without an individual coming out and blatantly saying ‘I’m using race as a factor in sentencing?” Silva asks. “You just don’t do it.”

Silva further stated that it is an obvious and clear historical fact that black men have largely received longer sentences than white men, and that although the report may be useful for “research” purposes, it reveals “nothing out of the ordinary” for the goings-on in this nation-state’s “criminal justice” system’s practices and procedures.

In fact, the report indicates that the racial divide in sentencing has actually widened since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005. It was then that the court struck down a 1984 law requiring judges to follow sentencing guidelines for each particular crime.

Thus, in only two short years, by 2007, sentences for black men, on average, clocked in at 15.2 percent longer than those for white men. The one saving grace here, Silva says, is that even though the sentencing guidelines are no longer mandatory, they are still generally used by most judges, especially federal judges.

According to Silva, the overall numbers, however, may not necessarily reflect racial bias on the part of judges. Rather, the disparity in sentencing can more likely be conflated with the much heavier policing in “urban” (read: black) areas and/or the more frequent and therefore more likely prosecution of African-American men.

Opinion and Analysis

Professor Silva’s last point about “heavier” policing and prosecution in this nation-state’s white-created black ghettoes reveals the racist bent of the justice system even moreso than the racially disparate sentencing numbers. What this means, and what the good professor downplays or overlooks altogether, though, is that black men are deliberately, consciously and purposely targeted by both police and prosecutors. You doubt that, you say? Where’s the evidence, you ask? Keep reading.

‘Niggers By The Pound’

In 1999, the Chicago Tribune broke a story that rocked the entire state of Illinois (and which should have upset and shaken the whole country right down to its racist “roots” — but, alas, it did not).

It seems that not a small number of white Cook County (Chicago) prosecutors played a little game with each other that went like this: Each day, either before or just after black defendants were hauled before a judge, they were ordered to step onto a scale. At the end of the week, the prosecutors tallied up the numbers, and the lucky prosecutor who had convicted the highest number of blacks-by-their-collective-weight (by volume!) won a free dinner for two (with all the fixings, of course) at any one of Chicago’s fanciest downtown hotels. They sadistically called the game “Niggers-By-The-Pound.”

For over thirty years as a paralegal, I regularly handled cases (mainly by conducting interviews on behalf of my attorney-bosses) in Cook County’s (Chicago’s) jail and criminal courts buildings.

Video Credit:

On any given day, the vast majority, upwards of ninety percent of criminal defendants being prosecuted there were black or brown men of all ages, and — importantly — of all sizes, with a smattering of black women, almost no white women, and a negligible number of “others.”

The often blocks-long lines of “brothers” shackled hand and foot and to each other, shuffling through the vast caverns and basements of the various buildings under the watchful and wary eyes of heavily armed “corrections officers,” looked like nothing other than those old grainy 19th century daguerreotype photos of black slaves being force-marched to and from the cotton, cane and tobacco fields, and rice paddies — or… to and from the auction block.

And so, again, this government report merely confirms what black people have known and experienced for some four hundred years now — that is, since at least 1619…and counting.

Freelancer since the earth first began cooling. My beat, justice: racial, social, political, economic and cultural. I’m on FB, Twitter, Link,

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store