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Sentence Reductions for Drug Traffickers for Assisting Federal Prosecutors

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1996
Among convicted Federal drug traffickers sentenced in 1994, fewer blacks (34 percent) than whites (43 percent) received a reduced sentence for assisting Federal prosecutors, a disparity of 9 percentage points.

Differences between the races in types of drugs sold, criminal histories, and weapon use that might produce different rates of receiving sentenced reductions were investigated by the U.S. Sentencing Commission using a multivariate statistical model. Holding constant 32 factors in the model did not reduce the size of the disparity associated with race, the model's 33rd factor. That is, after controls, the disparity was still statistically significant and was still estimated at 9 percentage points. Results indicated, however, the 9-point disparity did not hold up in further analysis. Although racial disparity was statistically significant according to one test, it was not significant according to another test. Nearly 20 percent of racial disparity disappeared when one additional relevant factor, a variable indicating whether the defendant pleaded guilty or stood trial, was added to the model. Most factors Federal prosecutors said influenced their decisions to file substantial assistance motions were not found in the U.S. Sentencing Commission model, suggesting the model does not provide a sound basis for concluding whether defendant race plays a role in prosecutor decisions to seek sentence reductions. Supplemental data on sentence reductions for drug traffickers are contained in appendixes. 12 footnotes, 6 tables, and 2 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1996