Racial Disparities in Federal Drug Sentencing

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Rittenberry, April
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This thesis delves into the history, standards, and practices of the United States federal government. Prior to the Sentencing Reform Act, federal judges were essentially unchecked and possessed unmatched power in terms of sentencing. This influx of power allowed, and continues to allow, disproportionate sentences to be given to offenders based upon biased reasons, one of those reasons predominately being Race. This thesis proposes that federal judges sentence Black men for longer periods of time for drug cases than White men. To test this hypothesis, the 2015-2016 Federal Prisoner Report was downloaded from the ICPSR website. The data set was condensed into the specific variables needed: drug offenders, race, prison length in months, and probation length in months. The total sample includes 21,387 offenders. The findings conclude that Black men serve an approximately 30% longer sentence than White men for a drug crime. The findings also conclude that Black men and White men serve a proportionate amount of time on federal probation.