Report: Women of All Races Get Shorter Prison Sentences than White Men

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals found that Adnan Syed, now in his late 30s, received ineffective counsel and ordered that his 2000 conviction on charges of murder, kidnapping and false imprisonment be vacated

New data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission revealed that American women of all races receive shorter prison sentences than white men who commit the same crimes.

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According to the data, in the most recent time period studied, white women and black women both receive sentences approximately 30 percent shorter than white men.

In a report about gender-based differences in sentencing, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight highlighted a U.S. Sentencing Commission statistic that shows that American women of all races receive shorter sentences than white men who commit the same crimes. Although black males still receive 19.1 percent longer sentences than white men who commit similar crimes, the statistic pokes a hole in the logic of intersectionality theory advocates who believe that American society has been designed to exclusively benefit white males.

The article explains that more women than men are in prison for drug offenses even though they are often less influential in illegal drug distribution organizations.

More than 56 percent of the women in federal prison are there for drug offenses, compared with about 47 percent of men. In drug cases involving multiple people, each defendant can be held responsible for the full weight of the drugs involved, even if he or she were far down on the organizational chart. That approach is hard on women, who are often low-level players in such operations, experts said.

FiveThirtyEight reporter David Dagan highlighted the story of Andrea James, who pleaded guilty to four criminal counts of mortgage fraud in 2009. James was given a reduced sentence because she was pregnant. Dagan argues that a criminal justice system that allows leeway for women in sentencing ends up resulting in sentencing disparities for men and women who commit the same crimes.

Some legal analysts suggest that the criminal justice system should extend similar sympathies who men who are facing sentencing. Instead of ignoring the complexities of life that women face, the analysts argue, judges should begin to reduce the sentences of men who are in certain circumstances.


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