ABA Journal
November 1999

Michael Higgins, a reporter with the Journal of the American Bar Association, became intrigued by strong statistical evidence suggesting that the federal government often failed the American people when it came to delivering equal protection under the law. Some of the evidence involved matters that obviously could be explained by variations in local conditions; it is hardly surprising that a significant proportion of all immigration cases are brought in federal districts along the southwest border. But Higgins discovered there were situations that seemed to defy common sense. The data showed, for example, that from 1993 through 1997, 51 percent of the 39,706 individuals convicted in federal court of matters that the Justice Department categorized as white collar crime went to prison. But when he examined the records of the 90 federal districts, he found at one end of the scale there were five where 70% or more of the convicted white collar criminals were sent to prison while at the other end there were five where 33% or fewer went to prison. The high end districts included Rhode Island (Providence) and Iowa South(Des Moines). Two at the low end were Northern California (San Francisco) and New Jersey (Newark). Higgins set to work and the result of his extensive reporting was the cover story for the ABA's November 1999 Journal, "Sizing Up Sentences."

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