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Study Finds Sentencing Bias in Washington State

Anew study has found that Hispanics in Yakima County are more likely to receive long prison sentences than whites. The study was performed by political scientist David Hood and sociologist Ruey-Lin Lin, both of Eastern Montana College in Billings. It was based on data from the Washington state Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

"Hispanic defendants continue to experience inequalities in Yakima County for certain categories of crime," said the report, which was released at the annual conference of the Western Social Science Association in Denver in April. Those crimes were burglary and drug and sexual offenses. Prosecutors say any disparity is minimal and results from logistics problems such as lack of interpreters. "I can firmly say that color does not enter into sentencing," Deputy Prosecutor John Monter said.

Among the findings were that sentences for Hispanics convicted of burglary were nearly one and a half times those for whites. Drug sentences for Hispanics averaged nearly twice as long as those for whites. And for some sex crimes, Hispanics went to prison about three and a half times longer than whites.

"It must be remembered that this situation occurs for defendants guilty of the same seriousness-level crime, similar criminal record and offense type," the study said.

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