There is concern about the significantly higher number of convictions and resulting incarcerations for people of color compared to other ethnicities. These disproportions occur at both the local and federal levels.
The criminal justice system is at fault for the unfairness displayed in the sentencing of people of color, but the foundations of these decisions are often rooted in racial prejudices and disparities within communities as a whole.
Disproportion in sentencing
The correction branch of the criminal justice system handles the placement of convicted criminals, but the convictions start within the courts. In addition to financial barriers impacting defendant choice in legal representation, judge assignment and jury selection impact the sentencing of a person of color for an accused crime. The rate of conviction and the severity of sentencing are disproportionate for Blacks, Latinos and other minorities.
The sentencing trends for people of color show harsher penalties and longer jail times for similar crimes committed by those of other ethnicities. Overall, Pennsylvania’s courts sentence people to life without parole at rates that are among the highest in the nation. For Black Pennsylvanians, a sentence of this nature occurs 18 times more frequently than for white individuals.
Disproportion in correctional facilities
Even though the state’s overall Black population is 12%, Black people account for six times the number of incarcerated individuals. The non-white prison population continues to grow more rapidly than the white population, with Black inmates representing the highest numbers across the state.
This information highlights the unfairness and disproportionate attention given to people of color in the criminal justice system. Prison populations accurately reflect the inequities between ethnicities.