Effects of Race Ethnicity and Sex on Sentencing

Effects of Race Ethnicity and Sex on Sentencing.

Effects of Race Ethnicity and Sex on Sentencing

Over the history of the judicial system, too many people have been a victim of racial, ethnic and sex prejudice. The system is so corrupt because analysis of the majority of cases that has gone through the judicial system suggests marginalized races, as well as men in general, are sentenced to a longer sentence. For instance, immigrant such as African American, Hispanics, Asian among other received severe penalties for a crime that attract fewer penalties to Caucasians. This has been the case in many criminal justice systems where such disparities have been on the rise. For crime offenders, their race, ethnicity, or sex determines their judgment whether it will be long, short, capital sentence, or parole among others.

Race and ethnicity play a great role in the sentencing of crime offenders (Jordan, 2014). Blacks, Hispanics, and whites offenders are perceived different and therefore received varying judgment for similar offenses. Whites offenders receive lesser sentences than their blacks and Hispanics counterparts do. This has seen many people rot in jail longer than they deserve while others are released before their time because of favoritism. These decisions are more or less influenced by race, ethnicity and sex of offenders. For example, black minority offenders are discriminated against in rehabilitation center.  Their resistance to harsh treatment in prison has been coded as inborn behaviors that result to their longer stay prison.

The race of the victim determines the sentencing of the offender. For instance, the case of Brown, who was killed by a white cop earned him the death penalty even before facing the judges (Clarke and Lett, 2014). In another case, Gregory, who is a white person, killed a black cop, and this earned him twenty-five years in prison. This shows that there are problems of race in the justice system. Blacks who commit crimes towards the white tend to get harsh sentences while their white foils who commit wrongdoing against the blacks receive lenient sentences. According to the criminal justice system, all crimes should be treated the same and accorded the same sentence despite the race of the offender (Spohn, 2013). Moreover, it is evidenced that when a black individual commits a crime against another black, they receive lesser harsh sentences than when it is against a white person.

The type of crime committed also determines how the sentences are made, and this is coupled with the race of the offender. For drug, related crimes and violent crimes such as theft, the blacks tend to receive harsh sentences than the whites. For instance, two friends were arrested for carjacking; one was white while the other was black. The white person had a part-time job at a mall while the black person was unemployed. After the trial, the judge sentences the black to ten years in prison while the white person was sentenced to two years. This is very unfair and shows the high level of racial problem in the country. Blacks are viewed as more dangerous and likely to commit the same crime once out of prison. This is because many African American are unemployed while their white counterparts have a job and good amenities. Therefore, whites are handed lesser sentence since the judges viewed them as less dangerous, yet they commit crimes of equal magnitude and which deserved equal years in prison no matter which race the offenders come from (American Civil Liberties Union, 2014).

White offenders often have the ability to hire private attorneys while the blacks and Hispanics often rely on public attorneys (Steffensmeier and Demuth, 2006). This affects the length of their sentences since the private attorneys are so good than the public defenders who have so many cases to handle and thus do not give their cases the seriousness that they demand. This leads to people of color receiving longer sentences and very harsh punishments (Barak, Lighton, and Flavin, 2010).

A black man who was accused of murdering his white fiancée was sentenced to live imprisonment, yet he was not guilty (Weyr, 1997). This happened because the jury in his trial comprised of ten whites and two blacks. All the white jurors voted him guilty while the blacks voted him not guilty and the majority ended up winning. An innocent man was sent to jail because he was black and the jurors were white. This shows racial prejudice compromises the composition of the jury in determining how an individual is sentenced. In many cases, blacks and Hispanics are sentenced despite their innocence because most jurors are racist and believe that people of color are dangerous and capable of committing any crime than their white counterparts who often get away with crimes they committed just because the jury favored them due to their color.

The sex of an individual also plays a great role in the justice system. Females are often viewed as weaker sex thus receives fewer sentences than their male counterparts receive. Despite the race, females receive way lenient sentences than all males of all races (Brennan, and Sponhn, 2009). However, black female offenders receive heavier sentences than their fellow white counterparts do (Brennan, and Sponhn, 2009). Black female offenders receive severe sentences than their fellow white counterparts. This is because black women are perceived to be violent and dangerous because they grow up in the ghetto. Scholars have argued that black women lifestyle exposes them to drug, firearms handling, and prostitution compared to their naïve and less violent white women who grow up in a better environment. All women should be treated equally under the law. The rights of individuals are equal and be observed so even when receiving punishment for equal offenses (Spohn, 2009).

Due to the rise of feminism and female rights activists the criminal justice tend to favor female offenders and in the case they are the victims the male offender tends to receive a longer sentence than if the victim was male. For instance, rape has been one of the crimes that have controversies regarding sentencing. Some activists would want to see a rapist rot in jail for a lifetime while others prefer death penalty and castration. In most cases when males are accused of rape, they suffer the consequences, which involve long sentences with no parole. However, female rapist tends to receive shorter sentences and sometimes due to the leniency of officers involved in the criminal justice system such as policemen, judges, and lawyers they may get away with the crime, yet they are guilty of committing the crime. Also, women are more likely to receive suspended sentences and probation than male counterparts. This may be because women are more likely to adhere to the rules of the probation and report regularly to their probation officers more than their male counterparts who sometimes tend to abscond their duties as spelled out in the probation agreement (Jordan, 2014). This has seen most males who could be offered a chance of freedom through probation or suspended sentences stay in prison longer than they should have.


Unlike blacks males, whites and women of color receive leniency when they provide important information regarding their cases. This is because the justice system views whites and women more reliable than the black and Hispanic males (Steffensmeier and Demuth, 2006). In most cases blacks and Hispanic, Males end up in jail regardless of whether they helped the investigating officer to find evidence implicating them their offenses. Their pleas for immunity do not get any attention of the jury. This has led to many blacks not accepting offers from detectives to give them information since they know no matter what they do they will be jailed despite what they provide (Krohn, Lizotte, and Hall, 2010).

An individual’s criminal record whether male or female should determine their sentence (Renzetti and Gover, 2013). For example, the case of Daniel and Walter indicate the biases that characterize the justice system. Both Daniel and Walter are arrested on charges of robbery with violence.  Daniel, who is black, has two counts of assault, and his white friend Walter has three counts of assault. The judge at their trial was white, and he hands Daniel a sentence of thirty years in prison while Walter was sentenced to fifteen years. One would ask is this fair? However, to the judge, it is fair to give those sentences because he is a racist and believes that white are better and requires shorter correction periods than blacks do. Moreover, they argue that blacks take longer to rehabilitate their behaviors. This shows that despite Walter having a worse criminal record than Daniel he is sentenced to a shorter period in jail just because he is white. It means that blacks with a criminal record are judged harshly and get longer sentences than white gets with worse criminal records than they get. This shows the disparity in the criminal justice system characterized by race and ethnicity.

In addition, offenders held in custody receive longer sentences, and this happens to blacks and Hispanics (Brennan, and Sponhn, 2009). Many blacks and Hispanics cannot afford to pay bail, so they stay in custody until their cases are heard. This means they have longer sentences than their white equals who get to pay bail and do not stay in custody and only appear in court for their cases and this help them in being handed shorter sentences if they are proved to be guilty of the offense they are accused of. This has seen many people stay in jail longer than they should have just because they could not pay bail and stayed in custody until their trial.

All criminals undergoing rehabilitation in prisons are viable for parole. Mostly women are granted parole than their male colleagues despite their good behavior (Martinez, 2010). Women being viewed as the weaker sex tend to be favored for parole more than the males who can survive the prison conditions better than women can. For people of color, they are rarely granted parole yet whites receive parole after serving for a short while. Despite blacks and Hispanics, having better conducts they draw no attention compared to whites offenders (Barak, Lighton, and Flavin, 2010). The criminal justice system tends to be inclined to favor the whites, and the blacks face the wrath of this unfair system.

There are too many effects of race, ethnicity and sex that marginalize the minority group against the white communities in the country.This has seen innocent people go to jail while others serve longer periods than they deserve. This is not reasonable, and people should fight to change the current justice system full of racism and favors. Crime is a crime and despite whom the offender is they should face the full force of law with no favors.




American Civil Liberties Union. (2014). Racial Disparities in Sentencing: Hearing on reports of racism in the justice system of the United States. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/141027_iachr_racial_disparities_aclu_submission_0.pdf

Barak, G., Lighton, P., and Flavin, J. (2010). Class, race, gender, and crimeThe social realities of justice in America. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Brennan, P. K., and Sponhn, C. (2009). The joint effects of offender race/ethnicity and sex on sentence length decisions in federal courts. Race and Social Problems, 1(4), 200-217.

Clarke, R., and Lett, C. (2014). What happened when Michael Brown met Officer Darren Wilson? Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2014/08/us/ferguson-brown-timeline/

Jordan, K. L. (2014). Examining the impact of race and ethnicity on the sentencing of juveniles in the adult court.Criminal Justice Policy Review, 21, 185-201.

Krohn, M. D., Lizotte, A. J., and Hall, G. P. (2010). Handbook on crime and deviance. New York: Springer Science & Business Media.

Martinez, R. (2010). Race, ethnicity, crime, and justice: Oxford Bibliographies online research guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Renzetti, C. M., and Gover, A. (2013). Routledge international handbook of crime and gender studies. New York: Routledge.

Spohn, C. (2009). How do judges decide? The search for fairness and justice in punishment. New York: SAGE Publication.

Spohn, C. (2013).  The effects of the offender’s race, ethnicity, and sex on federal sentencing outcomes in the guidelines era. Law and Contemporary Problems, 76(5), 75-104.

Steffensmeier, D., and Demuth, S. (2006). Does gender modify the effects of race–ethnicity on criminal sanctioning? Sentences for male and female white, black, and Hispanic defendants. Journal of Quantitative, 22(3), 241-261.

Weyr, T. (1997). Man convicted of killing fiancée sentenced to life. Retrieved from http://lubbockonline.com/news/051697/man.htm


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Effects of Race Ethnicity and Sex on Sentencing

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