Black offenders in US more likely to get life imprisonment than whites: Study
Black offenders in the US are more likely than white and non-black offenders to get sentenced to life imprisonment, according to a new study.
In an analysis of Americans convicted of a federal crime from 2010 to 2017, Black offenders were involved in less than a third of all cases but accounted for nearly half of the cases that were eligible for life sentences, according to study published last month in the journal Criminology.
White offenders, meanwhile, accounted for more than a third of all cases but received less than a quarter of federal life sentences handed out during that time, the study found.
The study analyzed the race of 366,000 federal offenders and the sentences imposed in 90 federal district courts. More than 4,800 qualified for a life sentence, while nearly 1,200 people received such a term, the study found.
Hispanic offenders were also more likely than white offenders to receive federal life sentences, the study found, although Black offenders were still twice as likely to receive life imprisonment.
"Two out of three people serving life terms are defendants of color, and some believe that life sentences are fraught with racial bias," said Brian Johnson, the University of Maryland criminology and criminal justice professor who led the study, in a statement to Axios.
"If there are racial disparities in this type of sentencing, we must investigate the mechanisms that contribute to them," Johnson said.
The study comes as activists are working to reform parts of the criminal justice system as crime levels in some areas ticked up during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Axios.
US politicians have advocated for criminal justice reform, including addressing police bias and abolishing solitary confinement, also known as punitive segregation.
President Joe Biden had campaigned on a pledge to reform "inhumane prison practices," such as solitary confinement, which studies have shown is more widely used among Black and Hispanic prisoners.