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The Champion

May 2019 , Page 16 

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Bias and the Remorse Discount

By M. Eve Hanan

The decision to credit a client’s remorse may make the difference in sentencing. While little research has been undertaken to document implicit racial bias in remorse assessments, a look at two areas of existing research — judicial assessments of remorse and implicit racial bias — points to a likelihood that judges unconsciously discount African American displays of remorse at sentencing.

Within the federal system from 2012 to 2016, black men received longer sentences than similarly situated white male offenders due to judicial departures from the Sentencing Guidelines.1 In other words, the racial disparity in prison sentences was a product of judicial discretion. While research on the effect of race at sentencing has produced conflicting results, recent studies demonstrate that Afrocentric features trigger implicit bias even if the fact of a racial designation, standing alone, does not result in a harsher sentence.2 A judge may be careful not to sentence black defendants more harshly t

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