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Looking Beyond the Sentence: Examining Policy Impacts on Racial Disparities in Federal Sentencing Across Stages and Groups, and Over Time

January 12, 2023

Funded by the National Institute of Justice [15PNIJ-21-GG-02817-RESS], we used publicly available federal sentencing data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission to measure racial disparities for multiple race groups and stages of sentencing over time (fiscal years 1999-2021). We 1) measured racial disparities between matched cases across three stages of federal sentencing, represented by two elements each; 2) identified at which points in time the disparities changed significantly using time series plots and structured break analyses; and 3) used this information to systematically review federal policies to identify which might have contributed to significant decreases in racial disparities. In this report, we discuss the study's purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.