Racial disparities are prevalent in all aspects of our justice system, including large variations of sentencing for similar crimes. These disparities are reflected amongst incarcerated women of color, whom represent the largest demographic of incarcerated women. The number of women behind bars since 1980’s to 2016 has increased by over 716%, twice the rate of men. As of 2016, women of color currently represent two thirds of all incarcerated women, making them 2 to 3 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white woman. For every 100,000 women incarcerated within the United States in 2014, 53 were white, 64 were Hispanic, but 109 were black. When it comes to black youth, black women ages 18-19 were four times as likely to be imprisoned than a white teenager. A large portion of the overrepresentation of black women in the prison system is due to the increased level of profiling that occurs, especially prevalent in cases of prostitution or The War on Drugs. Statistically women of all races use drugs at approximately the same rate, yet women of color are arrested and imprisoned at a disproportionate (Brock, 2018).
These alarming statistics represent the prejudice and bias that exists within our legal system, which leads to disproportionate levels of sentencing of similar crimes. One example of this is the case of Debbie Bosworth, who was recently indicted in January 2021 for stealing more than $238,000 over two decades as a clerk in Chagrin Falls. As an employee of the Buildings and Utilities department who was responsible for overseeing payments, permits, and other accounting duties, Bosworth attempted to alter records in an effort to hide her embezzlement (wkyc.com). A judge sentenced Bosworth to just two years of traditional probation despite the severity of crimes. If we compare this case to the case of Lavelle Wilson, a black woman, we see a large variation in sentencing. Lavelle Wilson worked as the executive assistant for a local church, of which she oversaw both of the church’s bank accounts for more than 30 years. During a financial review from the church’s executive committee, they discovered in 2019 that she has been withdrawing funds from the accounts to pay for personal expenses since 2014. She was arrested for stealing $667,542 from the church, to which she was sentenced to a staggering seven years in federal prison. Wilson had no criminal history prior to her sentencing.
In both cases, we have two different women who stole money from an institution, yet in one situation one was given two years of probation, where as the other was given seven years in a federal prison. Both women had no prior convictions and were first time offenders, raising the question as to why the differences were so large. All thought the sum of money was not equal, it is apparent that the severity of the punishment does not correlate with the amount of money stolen. Both women stole to pay for personal expensive where were clearly not justified, yet one was given a slap on the wrist where as the other is facing an extremely harsh sentence.