The Problem of Disproportionate Racial Impact

Richard S. Frase

in Just Sentencing

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199757862
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979547 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Penal Theory and Philosophy

The Problem of Disproportionate Racial Impact

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This chapter addresses the persistent problem of racial disproportionality in prison and jail populations. The chapter examines the apparent causes of this problem, within and outside the criminal justice system; the many ways in which criminal penalties worsen the disadvantage suffered by many nonwhite offenders, their families, and their communities; and the procedures by which the proposed model, consistent with its social equality principle, seeks to lessen disparate racial impacts. At the systemic level, racial-impact assessments help the legislature and sentencing commission identify specific sentencing rules with strong disparate impacts; such rules merit close scrutiny to ensure that each has valid justifications and is narrowly tailored. Other ways to reduce disparate and absolute racial impacts include recognizing social adversity as a mitigating sentencing factor; giving disadvantaged offenders priority access to treatment and supervision resources; creating specialized courts for these offenders; addressing disparities in prosecution decisions; and lowering overall sentencing severity.

Keywords: disadvantaged offenders; disparate impact; racial disproportionality; racial-impact assessments; sentencing commission; sentencing severity

Chapter.  11321 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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