Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

And Justice for All? Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Federal Drug Courts in California and the US


This study uses data obtained from the United States Sentencing Commission for fiscal years 2003, 2007, and 2012 to examine racial and ethnic disparities in drug crime sentencing. The authors use linear regression to assess disparities in sentence length between African-American and white offenders and Latino and non-Latino offenders and a binary logistic regression model to assess black/white and Latino/non-Latino disparities in the odds of receiving a sentence below the range stipulated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

At the national level, the study found significant racial disparities that disadvantage African-American offenders in sentence length and odds of a below-range sentence. The study observed no disparities between African-American and white offenders in California for sentence length in 2003 or 2012, or for below-range odds in any of the three years. Nationally, ethnic disparities that disadvantaged Latino offenders were found in both sentence length and odds of a below-range sentence.

In California, Latino offenders tended to receive longer sentences than others in 2003 and 2007 and had lower odds of a sentence below the Guideline range in 2012. The years included in this study bracket the Supreme Court case, United States v. Booker, but we found no clear impact of the case with regard to racial or ethnic disparities in sentencing outcomes.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View