Research Roundup: Study Finds Republican-Appointed Judges More Likely to Give Black Defendants Longer Sentences Than Democrat-Appointed Judges

A 2018 study by the American Economic Journal discovered Republican-appointed judges impose longer sentences on Black defendants than their Democrat-appointed counterparts.

The paper, “Judicial Politics and Sentencing Decisions” by Alma Cohen and Crystal S. Yang compiled data on over 500,000 federal defendants linked to a sentencing judge. The study is based on randomly-assigned cases, which omits the idea of variable bias, or the claim that correlation does not equal causation.

The paper acknowledges that Black defendants receive significantly longer prison sentences than similarly-charged white defendants. This reality contributes to the fact that Black prisoners make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population. In addition to race, the study also mentions gender disparities. Judges consistently sentence men more severely than women.

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