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NCJ Number: 204849 Find in a Library
Title: Is Sentencing in England and Wales Institutionally Racist? (From Confronting Crime: Crime Control Policy Under New Labour, P 156-181, 2003, Michael Tonry, ed. -- See NCJ-204841)
Author(s): Amanda Matravers; Michael Tonry
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 26
Sponsoring Agency: Willan Publishing
Portland, OR 97213-3644
Sale Source: Willan Publishing
c/o ISBS, 5804 N.E. Hassalo Street
Portland, OR 97213-3644
United States of America
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Book (Hardbound)
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: After discussing the limited usefulness of the concept of "institutional racism," this chapter examines racial disparities in sentencing in Great Britain, followed by proposals for reducing unwanted disparities in sentencing related to offender ethnicity.
Abstract: The authors do not advocate the use of the term "institutional racism" in an assessment of apparent sentencing disparity that adversely affects offenders from racial minority groups. This label tends to make people defensive, which obstructs rational consideration of the problem of sentencing disparity. The authors believe it is more productive to reach consensus on the existence of a problem and then identify its prevalence and causes, followed by the development of strategies for resolving or ameliorating the problem. The problem can be clearly stated, i.e., that Black people in England and Wales are, relative to their numbers in the population, six or seven times more likely to be confined in prison than are Whites; and when charged with crimes, Black suspects are more likely to be imprisoned prior to case disposition; Black offenders are also more likely to receive longer sentences than White offenders. The explanations of such sentencing disparity between races have focused on the following five factors: offending patterns, criminal histories, offender characteristics other than race or ethnicity, case processing variables, and "racist" or "improper" discrimination. Empirically, most of the imprisonment disparity that affects Black offenders results from group differences in offending. Some is attributable to group differences in social and economic characteristics and criminal histories; some is attributable to the unintended side effects of case processing policies; and some results from "improper discrimination." There is no credible research or other quantitative evidence that convincingly shows racial bias or enmity is a major factor in sentencing disparity between racial and ethnic groups. This chapter identifies four sets of possible approaches to such sentencing disparity. Some relate to sentencing, and others pertain to sentencing policy, processes, and practices that exacerbate disparities in sentencing. Other strategies relate to the organization and operation of the judiciary. Specific recommendations offered in this chapter are to repeal all mandatory minimum sentence laws and cut all sentence lengths by half; establish presumptive sentencing guidelines based solely on conviction offense and criminal histories; authorize judges to mitigate sentences in all cases based on social and economic factors; require that disparity analyses and projections be conducted for all proposed penal legislation; require disparity analyses for all existing penal laws; conduct disparity analyses of all existing policies and practices reasonably believed to cause or exacerbate imprisonment disparities; establish and maintain proactive but nonaccusatory diversity sensitization and training programs for criminal justice employees; and establish coherent programs of positive action for employing members of ethnic minorities throughout the judicial system. 32 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): England; Foreign sentencing; Minority overrepresentation; Racial discrimination; Sentencing disparity; Sentencing factors; Sentencing reform; Wales
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