Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-2023


Racial discrimination is a far-reaching issue that adversely impacts individuals, groups, and communities across multiple domains. It is defined by the Equality and Human Rights Commission as being treated differently because of one’s race. For decades, discriminatory policies have been codified into institutional processes which disadvantage people of color. This is particularly evident in the criminal justice system. Examples of practices that disproportionately impact intentionally marginalized populations include issues of excess force and police brutality, sentencing disparities for minor offenses or drug charges, and state sanctioned capital punishment. While these forms of discrimination are often labeled as explicit and overt from the public’s perspective, more insidious forms of racism are ubiquitous and deeply embedded in society and throughout the criminal justice system. These forms include micro aggressions and implicit biases which are rooted in prejudice and socially constructed stereotypes. For individuals sentenced to death, racial discrimination can cause a disturbingly unjust reality. Current sentences show that black males are 68.2 percent more likely to receive harsher sentences than a white male of the same age and crime committed. This disproportionate rate of higher sentencing is a small portion of how minoritized populations are at a disadvantage within the justice system. This poster analyzes current literature that surrounds the foundation of sentencing discrimination, presents a SOAR analysis of the Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender, and includes recommendations to eliminate the root causes of racial injustice within capital punishment sentencing.