Proponents of longer prison sentences argue they accomplish multiple objectives, including properly punishing a person who commits a crime, making it safer for the rest of society and serving as a deterrent to others who may commit similar crimes.
An unfortunate fact about our criminal justice system is that minorities are frequently sentenced to more time for the same crimes as whites. In the U.S., African-Americans, for example, make up 13.3 percent of the population but account for 38 percent of people incarcerated in state prisons, according to federal data.
In the federal justice system, most criminal sentences are determined by formulas in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines are determined by an agency called the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
In many ways, news that disparities exist in the U.S. criminal justice system based on race evoke thoughts of Captain Renault, Claude Rains' character in "Casablanca," shutting down Rick's Café and exclaiming, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"