Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $49,998)
The purpose of the study is to inform the field of observed racial disparities in federal sentencing and how they might be reduced/eliminated through public policy, thereby promoting a fairer system and enhancing community trust and wellbeing. The applicant proposes to conduct a 12-month secondary analysis of U.S. Sentencing Commission’s (USSC) report, Demographic Differences in Sentencing (2017). The applicant will use the USSC annual datasets from that report (Fiscal Years [FY] 1998-2016), add five years of datasets (FY2017-FY2021), and complete a new analysis. This secondary analysis will use matching techniques, regression models, timeseries-structural break models, and systematic policy reviews. The applicant will employ a bottom-up approach in which they will engage in three analytical activities to achieve their goals: 1) Create a racial disparity index of multiple decision points in the federal sentencing process and identify at which points in the span of 20+ years the disparities decreased significantly; 2) Use the information from #1 to conduct a systematic review of federal policies, U.S. Supreme Court rulings, and amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines to identify which likely contributed to the decrease in disparities; and 3) Compile study results into detailed reports with actionable recommendations, disseminated through multiple mediums, for key decisionmakers to use in formulating policies that reduce racial disparities in sentencing. Study deliverables include a final research report, a professional presentation, a public-facing factsheet, and at least one peer-reviewed journal article.