The Sentencing Project News
June 17, 2013
RACE TO INCARCERATE: A GRAPHIC RETELLING
First published in 1999, Marc Mauer’s Race to Incarcerate, a seminal work which explains the exponential growth of the U.S. prison system, has just been published as Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling.
Mauer collaborated with graphic artist Sabrina Jones to adapt and update the original text to produce a vivid and engaging comics narrative that chronicles four decades of prison expansion and its corrosive effect on generations of Americans and the implications for American democracy.
June 19, 2013 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: A Primer on Felony Disenfranchisement
The dramatic growth of the U.S. prison population in the last 40 years has led to record levels of disenfranchisement, with an estimated 5.85 million citizens banned from the polls today. Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer provides an introduction to the issue, covering: an overview of state felony disenfranchisement policies; the history and impact of felony disenfranchisement; state-level reform efforts; disenfranchisement policies in an international context; and the impact of felony disenfranchisement.
June 18, 2013 (U.S. News)
Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Now in Jury's Hands
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a jury, not a judge, should have the final say on facts that impose mandatory minimum sentences.
In particular, the 5-4 ruling will make it harder to impose minimum sentences on drug offenders, because they are among the most frequent to receive those sentences. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
"Mandatory minimums for drug offenders will lessen, but it's difficult to say to what extent," says Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, which opposes mandatory minimum sentences. "It's also likely that this will have beneficial effects in reducing racial disparity, because so many mandatory minimums are imposed for drug offenses, and because African-Americans in particular are on the receiving end of those penalties.
June 18, 2013 (New Books in Public Policy)
Mauer on how the U.S. became the world’s leader in incarceration
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, discussed Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling, done in collaboration with artist Sabrina Jones, with Shawn Hamilton of New Books in Public Policy.com. The book has become the essential text for understanding the exponential growth of the U.S. prison system. Michelle Alexander, author of the bestselling The New Jim Crow, calls it "utterly indispensable." Listen here.
June 17, 2013 (The Sentencing Project)
U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Mandatory Sentencing Will Bring Greater Fairness in Sentencing
In a 5 to 4 decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain facts must be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt in order to impose a mandatory minimum sentence. The case of Alleyne v. United States focused on whether in federal cases the brandishing of a weapon must be charged in an indictment, and proved to a jury, in order to set or increase a mandatory minimum. The Court held that this rigorous burden of proof is required by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Today’s decision is a victory for the thousands of individuals and their families -- disproportionately from communities of color -- whose lives are put on hold each year by unjust mandatory minimum sentences," said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project. "Research shows that mandatory minimums contribute significantly to racial disparities in punishment. By requiring a higher burden of proof in order to impose such sentences, the Court has taken an important step toward diminishing a primary driver of high prison populations, increasing prison costs, and racial unfairness in the criminal justice system.”
June 17, 2013 (BBC)
Why the US locks up more people for life
When an English court handed down a lifetime sentence last week to Dale Cregan for murdering four people, including two policewomen, making him one of about 50 people in the UK serving such a sentence.
Life sentences that truly mean a lifetime in prison are rare in the United Kingdom but common in the US. In the US, Cregan wouldn’t be a rarity.
At least 40,000 people in the US are imprisoned without hope for parole, including 2,500 under the age of 18. And that is just a fraction of those who have been given a life sentence but yet may one day win release. The Sentencing Project estimated in a 2009 report that at least 140,000 people incarcerated in the US now serve a life sentence.
June 17, 2013 (Athens Banner-Herald)
Disenfranchisement hits minorities hardest
Correspondent Jessica Johnson writes that Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell took a “momentous step in his valiant effort to restore the right to vote for nonviolent felons in his state.
“Though McDonnell’s proposals have bipartisan support, they have been harshly contested by some members of his own party. When he attempted to amend Virginia’s constitution so voting rights would be restored immediately to nonviolent offenders who completed their sentences, it was rejected by Republicans in the House of Delegates.
“Virginia, along with the other southern states of Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, has more than 7 percent of its adult population disenfranchised due to felony convictions, according to a report from The Sentencing Project.
”McDonnell’s move (which has been praised by the NAACP and African-American leaders) could restore voting rights to more than 100,000 Virginians, many of them African Americans.
June 17, 2013 (Tampa Bay Times)
Time for Legislature to do right by young offenders
Columnist Dan DeWitt writes that Florida law “allows only one sentence for Harleme Larry, who two weeks ago was convicted of a murder he committed in Dade City when he was 14 years old: life in prison with no chance of parole.
“If you think this isn't right, that we need to clear the legal attic of these relics of the tough-on-crime 1990s, you have plenty of company.
“That includes researchers at The Sentencing Project, whose report, The Lives of Juvenile Lifers, found that overwhelming numbers of these young offenders came from broken and violent homes, and struggled in school, and were exposed to criminal activity at a very young age.
“In other words, the raw deal they got from the courts was just one in a long series of raw deals. And it's hard to imagine anyone getting a worse deal than Larry, whose mother, a cocaine addict and prostitute, was murdered by his stepfather when Larry was 3.
June 13, 2013 (USA Today)
Decline in laws named for child victims
Reporter Rick Hampson writes that while dozens of state and federal statutes are named for children who died too soon--Megan's Law and Jessica's Law, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, and others—the so-called “apostrophe laws” are waning.
The reasons, he writes, range from cost to a drop in the crime rate — violent crime in the U.S. has decreased in 15 of the past 17 years — to the fact that such laws make voters and politicians feel good, but don’t accomplish much.
June 13, 2013 (The Huffington Post)
"Sesame Street" Incarceration Kit Helps Families Cope With America's Prison Epidemic
Sesame Street is tackling incarceration with an educational kit entitled “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration." The package, which consists of stories, tips and activities for caregivers and kids, is designed to act as “an educational outreach initiative for families with children (ages 3 – 8) who are coping with a parent’s incarceration.”
Despite a decline in the rates of incarceration, especially for women, one in every 50 children in the U.S. has a parent who is incarcerated, according to a report and fact sheet from The Sentencing Project.