Black Men’s Sentences 20 Percent Longer Than White Men’s For Similar Crimes

Black men are sentenced to far more time in prison than white men for committing similar crimes, according to a new report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

A report released last week from the USSC ― an independent agency of the U.S. judicial branch ― looked at federal prison sentences in the United States from Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2016, and found that black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than those of “similarly situated” white male offenders.

The commission also factored in offenders’ criminal histories to look at whether violence in offenders’ pasts could account for the racial disparities ― and found that it did not. Looking at 2016, the only year for which such data was available, the commission found that, after controlling for criminal history, black men still received 20.4 percent longer sentences than did white men.

This report’s findings match those of a previous USSC report from 2007 to 2011, which found a nearly 20 percent gap in sentences between black and white men. 

The racial disparities in sentencing appear to have increased over the last two decades, worsening specifically after 2005.

According to older USSC reports, the gap between black and white men in sentencing was about 11 percent for 1998 to 2003 and 5 percent for 2003 to 2005. But it jumped to 15 percent for 2005 to 2007 and to nearly 20 percent thereafter.

USSC noted in a 2010 report that the differences in sentence length between black and white male offenders “have increased steadily” since the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 in United States v. Booker to increase judges’ discretion in sentencing

But the factors contributing to racial disparities in sentencing are complex, according to Marc Mauer, director of the nonprofit Sentencing Project. Judges aren’t the only factor, or necessarily even the biggest, in sentencing disparities.

“It’s not necessarily racist judges,” Mauer told HuffPost by email Friday. “But much of [the] disparity [is] likely due to decision-making by prosecutors.”

Mauer pointed to research from scholars Sonja Starr and Marit Rehavi, which found that prosecutors “have a huge impact on sentences,” as they have broad discretion in how to charge an offender or whether to offer a plea-bargain. 

Overall, sentencing is just one part of the broader problem of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system: Black people are incarcerated in U.S. state prisons at more than five times the rate of white people.



Hampton University’s $150 Million Fundraising Drive Is Off To Good Start

Hampton University President Dr. William Harvey said $118 million has already been raised during the silent phase of the school’s $150 million fundraising campaign that was launched on Oct. 27 in Ogden Hall.

The five-year campaign is called “Dream No Small Dreams.” Harvey said he anticipates the campaign reaching its $150 million mark well before then. The recent kick-off campaign included music, confetti and the unveiling of a thermometer. On hand to help the president kick-off the public phase of the campaign were the Marching Force band, cheerleaders and a dance team, according to news report.

Hampton University president William R. Harvey
Dr.William Harvey

The fundraising campaigns has several goals including setting aside $50 million for endowed scholarships, which would help to recruit students and supply financial aid to students who may not otherwise be able to attend the private university.

Another $20 million would be set aside for endowed chairs and professorships  in multiple disciples. About $25 million would be earmarked for academic enrichment programs such as the Freddy T. Davy Honors College, the William R. Harvey Leadership Institute, and the University Museum.

Martha Baye, a senior and president of the Student Government Association, said, “It is imperative that those of us graduating from Hampton give back annually, no matter how large or small the contribution, because these funds are in turn feeding back into the next generation of educated Black youth through scholarships.”



Defying the Odds: African-Americans Make Historic Wins on Election Night

Lieutenant Governor Elect Justin Fairfax speaks at Ralph Northam's election night victory rally on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, Nov. 7, 2017.

A large number of black candidates claimed victory in state and local races across the country Tuesday night — results widely hailed as a reaction to President Donald Trump and Republican policies in general.

A large number of black candidates claimed victory in state and local races across the country Tuesday night — results widely hailed as a reaction to President Donald Trump and Republican policies in general.

And voters of color were buoyed by both the Democratic National Committee and grassroots organizations that poured resources into turning out the party's all-important base.

“Undoubtedly a cornerstone of our party, black voters surged to the polls in a tremendous way, set the tone for future elections, and paved the way for government that truly represents them,” said Amanda Brown Lierman, political and organizing director for the DNC, in a statement. “That’s exactly why we will continue to engage black communities across the nation and fight to ensure every single eligible voter has the power to exercise their franchise.”

One of the most closely watched races in the country was the contentious gubernatorial battle in Virginia, which pitted Democrat Ralph Northam against Trump-endorsed Republican Ed Gillespie in a contest filled with allegations of race-baiting and attack ads. According to NBC News exit polls, 87 percent of African-Americans in Virginia voted for Northam, compared to 88 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton. Ninety-one percent of African-American women also voted for Northam.

Northam emerged the victor and the number two man on his ticket — Justin Fairfax, who is black — is the new lieutenant governor-elect. Fairfax now has the distinction of being just the second African-American elected to statewide office in Virginia, decades after Doug Wilder was elected governor in 1989.

DNC officials said the party invested $1.5 million in Virginia to help secure wins. They also courted African-American voters.

 Deebaa Sirdar, left, and Sara Lopez, right, take a selfie with Andrea Jenkins as she won the Minneapolis Ward 8: Council Member race in Minneapolis on Nov. 7, 2017. Carlos Gonzalez / Star Tribune Via AP

For instance, Brown Lierman said that since last summer, the party has been committed to spending on a mail program that reaches out to black communities.

In Virginia, where African-Americans make up about a fifth of the commonwealth’s electorate, the DNC said 100 percent of its investments “went into doubling the number of organizers and putting boots on the ground.”

Officials said they also invested in a black women’s mobilization program, called InCharge. “Yesterday in Virginia, over 90 percent of black women cast ballots for Governor Ralph Northam,” said Brown Lierman.

In another race watched nationally, veteran lawmaker Sheila Oliver, 65, was elected the first African-American lieutenant governor of New Jersey.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Vi Lyles, 66, became the city’s first African-American female mayor. The former assistant city manager garnered some 58 percent of the vote.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen and Glynda Carr are co-founders of Higher Heights for America, an organization that works to elect black women to office. African-American women have historically voted in significant numbers, they noted, and in 2016, their influence helped increase the number of black women in Congress. The numbers rose by three to 21 — that includes Sen. Kamala Harris, only the second black woman elected to the Senate in U.S. history.

 Democratic candidate Phil Murphy celebrates with his running mate, Lieutenant Governor-elect Sheila Oliver, after he was elected Governor of New Jersey, in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Nov. 7, 2017.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

“Black women are running and winning. They seek to change the face of leadership in executive offices and to move this country forward in this political toxic environment,” said Peeler-Allen. “Last night, black women across this country continued to demonstrate that they continue to be a solid return on investment at the polls and at the ballot.”

Meanwhile, a host of other African-American candidates won local and statewide races in major cities and small towns across the country. Some races were historic.

Andrea Jenkins won a seat on Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly transgender African-American woman elected to public office in the U.S.

Another noteworthy win occurred in Montana, where Wilmot Collins, a Liberian-born immigrant, became the first African-American mayor in Helena in modern times; reportedly there was a black mayor in 1874,

 Vi Lyles, Charlotte's Democratic mayor pro tem, listens to the applause of supporters with her granddaughter, Arya Alexander, 2, following her victory over Republican City Councilman Kenny Smith on Nov. 7, 2017, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lyles, a nearly 30-year veteran of local government was the definitive choice of voters on Tuesday and she will become the first African-American woman to run North Carolina's largest city. Jeff Siner / The Charlotte Observer Via AP

At least seven cities elected African-Americans mayoral posts in Tuesday’s election: Yvonne Spicer, first mayor of the newly incorporated city of Framingham, Massachusetts, Melvin Carter, mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, Mary Parham Copelan, mayor of Milledgeville, Georgia (She beat the incumbent by just six votes), and Booker Gainor, millennial mayor of Cairo, Georgia.

In Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, an African-American Council member, will face off against Mary Norwood, a white colleague, on Dec. 5 to determine the city’s next mayor.

Political strategist Quentin James an NBCBLK28 2017 honoree, is co-founder of The Collective Pac, which funds campaigns of progressive black candidates across the country. The political action committee endorsed both Fairfax and Oliver, along with Marvin Pendarvis, Jennifer Carroll Foy, and other victorious black candidates.

“When we fully fund and support black candidates, we can win ... there is no lack of talent in our community and geography isn't an issue,” said James. “We have black candidates who are ready to lead this country.”

 St. Paul mayoral candidate Melvin Carter celebrates his win with family and friends on Nov. 7, 2017, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jerry Holt / Star Tribune Via AP

He also said voters of color should be thinking about midterm elections next year.

“When it comes to black voters, we need to recognize that they are angry and tired of the status quo,” he said. “We deserve leaders that are going to fight for our issues and last night, black voters supported candidates that they believe will best represent our communities and will stand up for our values.”

Brown Lierman of the DNC echoed a similar sentiment.

“With their ballots, the African-American communities across the nation sent a loud, resounding message to Republicans who hold water for Donald Trump and try to use his hateful rhetoric as a vehicle for political success — you do not represent us.”




It’s Official: Laurence Fishburne Files For Divorce From Gina Torres

After being separated for more than a year, Laurence Fishburne has filed to officially end his marriage to Gina Torres.

According to TMZ, the actor filed for divorce on Thursday.

When they announced the split in September, Gina said, “With heavy hearts, Laurence and I quietly separated and began the dissolution of our marriage in the early fall of last year,” adding, “There are no bad guys here. Only a love story with a different ending than either one of us had expected.”

The couple has one daughter, 10-year-old Delilah.

The pair may have spent the last year dividing assets, notes TMZ, adding, “celebrities often lay the groundwork before filing for divorce, so the case isn’t front and center in the legal system for very long.”



John Kelly Says Lack Of ‘Compromise’ Started Civil War, Defends Statues

On Fox News, Trump’s chief of staff calls Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee an “honorable man ... who gave up his country to fight for his state.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said on Monday that a “lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War” and called the removal of Confederate monuments a “dangerous” scrubbing of history.

Kelly, speaking to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham during the debut of her new show, “The Ingraham Angle,” made the comments when asked about his thoughts on the removal of two plaques honoring President George Washington and Gen. Robert E. Lee at a church in Alexandria, Virginia. 

“I think we make a mistake, though, and as a society and certainly as, as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say: ‘What Christopher Columbus did was wrong,’” Kelly said. “You know, 500 years later, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then.”

He went on to describe Lee, a Confederate general who fought for Southern states’ rights to own slaves, as honorable.

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.

“He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which, 150 years ago, was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War. And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had to make their stand.”

The leaders of Christ Church in Alexandria said this month it would relocate two plaques honoring Washington and Lee after deciding they “may create an obstacle to our identity as a welcoming church,” The Guardian reported. The move follows an impassioned summer of activism that saw the removal of many Confederate statues around the United States, which led to protests including a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“There are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good,” Kelly told Ingraham when speaking about the removal of monuments. “I mean, human history, our culture is an evolving thing. There will be 100 or 200 years from now people that criticize us for what we do, and I guess they’ll tear down, you know, statues of people that we revere today.”



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