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Sentencing Policy

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Taking a second look at life imprisonment
November 07, 2019

Taking a second look at life imprisonment

In most Western European nations, sentences of more than 20 years are rare either by statute or in practice. The United States, with just 4 percent of the world’s population, houses more than half of the world’s population of people serving life without parole.
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State Advocacy Update: Inside-Outside Organizing in Ending Life Imprisonment
October 31, 2019

State Advocacy Update: Inside-Outside Organizing in Ending Life Imprisonment

Raising awareness about the realities of lifelong prison terms has surfaced new activism in dismantling mass incarceration. This awareness can build on years of advocacy that aligns the lived experiences of those sentenced to life prison terms to activists on the outside.
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Featured Story

Kemba Smith

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.
publications
October 24, 2019

Private Prisons in the United States

U.S. private prisons incarcerated 121,718 people in 2017, representing 8.2% of the total state and federal prison population.  
publications
September 30, 2019

Racial Impact Statements

Racial impact statements are a tool for lawmakers to evaluate potential disparities of proposed legislation prior to adoption and implementation. Analogous to fiscal impact statements, they assist legislators in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications.
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Featured Story

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.
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State Advocacy Update: Research Resources to Challenge Mass Incarceration
September 30, 2019

State Advocacy Update: Research Resources to Challenge Mass Incarceration

Research is a starting point for many activists challenging mass incarceration, including tracking state imprisonment levels and other trends. Dismantling punitive policies that contribute to high prison populations requires a collaborative approach to shift hearts and minds through advocacy, research, and other strategies.
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Race & Justice News: Racial Impact of Florida’s Criminal Laws
September 27, 2019

Race & Justice News: Racial Impact of Florida’s Criminal Laws

State supreme courts less reflective of nation’s diversity, Florida lawmakers partner with researchers to assess racial impact of legislation, increase in Virginia's marijuana arrests sparks calls for change, and more in Race & Justice News.
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Featured Story

Dorothy Gaines

Dorothy Gaines's life changed when Alabama state police raided her home for drugs. Police found no evidence of Gaines having possessed or sold drugs, yet federal prosecutors charged Gaines with drug conspiracy.
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A Second Look at Long Sentences Is the Bold Approach We Need on Criminal Justice Reform
September 26, 2019

A Second Look at Long Sentences Is the Bold Approach We Need on Criminal Justice Reform

Kara Gotsch
For the bipartisan lawmakers in Washington, and the 2020 presidential candidates who have pledged to address the problems in the criminal justice system, a broader approach to challenge mass incarceration and promote public safety is long overdue.
publications
September 17, 2019

U.S. Prison Population Trends: Massive Buildup and Modest Decline

While most states have downsized their prison populations in recent years, the pace of decarceration is insufficient to undo nearly four decades of unrelenting growth.
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Featured Story

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’.
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Fact: DC has a mass incarceration problem
September 11, 2019

Fact: DC has a mass incarceration problem

Recent public debates in the District of Columbia surrounding legislation to expand opportunities for sentence reductions to people convicted of offenses before age 25 have raised questions about the level of incarceration in the District.
publications
August 29, 2019

Virtual Life Sentences

Over 44,000 people around the country are serving a sentence of 50 years or more. This fact sheet provides a summary of this long-overlooked population of individuals serving such sentences.
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Featured Story

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.
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