May 02, 2019
Vox: Amy Klobuchar has a plan to reverse the war on drugs — and doesn’t need Congress to do it
In an effort to scale back mass incarceration and the war on drugs, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar outlined a plan to set up a new system of clemency that would release thousands of people in federal prison with excessively long sentences, reports Vox.
April 29, 2019
State Advocacy News: Grassroots Strategies to End Life Imprisonment
State groups in California and New York are anchoring grassroots efforts to limit extreme sentences in support of scaling back mass incarceration.
April 15, 2019
Louisiana denies parole to 72-year-old Henry Montgomery
On April 11, the state of Louisiana denied Henry Montgomery’s request for parole for the second time. He is 72 years old, and has been incarcerated since 1963. In 1969, he was sentenced to a term of life without the possibility of parole.
April 12, 2019
Race & Justice News: Violent Rap Lyrics Are Not Confessions
Rappers explain that violent rap lyrics are not confessions to Supreme Court, LAPD plans to change its data-driven policing program, Maryland lawmakers allow Johns Hopkins University to create armed police, and more in Race & Justice News.
Theresa McIntyre Smith
In 1999, Theresa Smith was arrested at an airport after she met a drug courier in Roy Mercer’s network and according to the government, identified a suitcase containing eleven kilograms of cocaine for the courier. Smith said she had been told by Mercer that the suitcase contained his nieces’ clothes. For this first-time non-violent offense, Smith was sentenced to a ten-year mandatory prison term.
April 10, 2019
Vox: New Zealand may impose impose a life without parole sentence for first time
Vox's German Lopez highlights how life sentences are a rarity outside of the United States criminal justice system.
April 02, 2019
The Next Step: Ending Excessive Punishment for Violent Crimes
The Next Step highlights 15 reforms in 19 states implemented over the past two decades that have produced more effective, fiscally sound, and humane policies for people convicted of violent crimes.
Willie Mays Aikens
In 2008, Willie Mays Aikens made headlines when a federal judge reduced his lengthy prison term to 14 years as a result of the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s adjustment to the crack cocaine sentencing guidelines. Aikens was released in June 2008.
March 28, 2019
State Advocacy News: Mid-Session Trends in Challenging Life Imprisonment
At least 16 states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation authorizing retroactive sentencing remedies for persons sentenced to life imprisonment.
March 25, 2019
Washington Post: Reduce prison populations by reducing life sentences
Criminologist Daniel S. Nagin highlights The Sentencing Project's proposal to end life imprisonment.
Lawrence and Lamont Garrison
Sentences for federal drug crimes are based on the quantity of the drugs involved, not the individual’s role in the crime. The emphasis on quantity rather than the role of the offender, along with the conspiracy laws, too often result in disproportionate sentencing, even for first-time offenses such as the Garrisons’.
March 04, 2019
Race & Justice News: Misunderstanding African American English in Court
Philadelphia court reporters regularly made errors in transcribing sentences that were spoken in African American English (AAE), South Carolina's civil asset forfeitures unevenly impact black men, and more in Race & Justice News.
At 24 years old, Kemba Smith was sentenced to 24.5 years in prison for conspiracy to participate in her boyfriend's drug activities, a non-violent, first-time offense. For years, her parents galvanized a tireless movement seeking clemency for their daughter.