Black men received five to 10 percent longer federal prison sentences than white men for similar crimes between 2005 and 2012, after accounting for the facts surrounding the case, says Abt Associates in a report for the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Noting a trend toward more lenient sentences overall, the report concluded that white men have seen larger declines in average prison sentences than have black men. The disparity between black and white males narrowed as the crimes involved became more serious.
Researchers said that race “probably correlated with other characteristics,” including education, income, demeanor, and location, which the report said might have accounted at least in part for the differing sentences among white and black males. Racial disparity increased during the period studied, a trend the study attributed not to prosecutors but to “individual judges' behavior,” meaning that some judges gave black males especially longer sentences.