The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) recently released a study that says the gap between whites and blacks and the length of their prison sentences is closing. In fact, as the Daily Caller reported, the findings pointed out that “white offenders convicted of a crime carrying a mandatory minimum sentence are receiving more severe punishments than any other race.” This was the first penalties report since 2011, with more to follow.
A lot has changed since the last report. The new study revealed that white offenders had the “highest average sentence among offenders convicted of a crime carrying a mandatory minimum penalty.” On average, in 2016 white offenders were sentenced to one hundred twenty-seven months while black offenders received one hundred nineteen months. Hispanics came in a little lower at ninety-three months. In 2010, black offenders were given one hundred twenty-seven months. However, when it comes to prison population, Hispanics held the majority at 40.4%. Black offenders are the next largest group, accounting for 29.7%, with white offenders at 27.2%.
According to the Daily Caller even though whites are receiving longer sentences, the number of mandatory minimum sentences issued since 2011 have declined. The Caller attributes this to the Obama Administration. “The study clarifies that the drop is likely due to policies adopted by the Obama administration during the later years of Barack Obama’s presidency.”
There are different theories for the shift in sentencing among the white and black offenders. Some have attributed it to the racial divide that has taken the country hostage over the past few years. With so many liberals quick to cry foul anytime a black person is arrested, the theory is that fewer arrests are being made for fear of a massive public outcry.
According to a study by FiveThirtyEight.com, arrests have declined in key crime cities after an officer involved shooting resulted in the deaths of black men. Chicago, a city well-known for its high crime rate and inner-city violence, saw a drop in arrests after the shooting of seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. McDonald was fatally shot 16 times. A video of the shooting was released about a year later. Crime spiked but police presence declined which obviously resulted in fewer arrests. FiveThirtyEight notes in its April 2016 report:
In fact, the change in arrests for gun violence began at least four months ago, around the time the video was released, and arrest rates have continued dropping to a level unseen since at least 2001, the earliest year of available data… A similar decline in police activity and increase in violence occurred in Baltimore after protests over the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. Likewise, police activity in New York City slowed down dramatically after police killed Eric Garner.
Another theory claims better education and more opportunities for employment in black communities has helped some of the youth to break out of poverty and a life of crime. And still another theory suggests more whites are turning to crime due to lost jobs and higher cost of living.
Although white offenders are receiving longer sentences than blacks now, black offenders are still the majority leaders for the harshest crimes committed. Critics argue social inequality, lack of proper education, poverty, and dysfunctional family life are the biggest contributors to the alarming crime rate among the black community. This is nothing new. But what we should be asking is what has changed in six years to reverse the tables, so that the white offender is receiving longer sentences than any other race?