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The Sentencing Project News
July 23, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime

A new report by The Sentencing Project examines the potential for substantial prison population reductions. Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States profiles the experiences of three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – that have reduced their prison populations by about 25% while seeing their crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average.


July 18, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
U.S. Sentencing Commission Unanimously Votes to Reduce Drug Penalties Retroactively

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to apply reduced drug penalties retroactively to 46,000 prisoners serving excessive sentences for federal drug offenses.  In April the Commission amended the federal sentencing guidelines to reduce offense levels across drug types.  Today’s vote will help to alleviate the unsustainable burden on the federal prison system by allowing federal prisoners serving time for a drug offense to seek a reduction in their current sentence -- potentially reducing average prison terms nearly two years.  Unless Congress acts to disapprove the amendment, it will go into effect November 1, 2015.


July 18, 2014 (The New York Times)
New Rule Permits Early Release for Thousands of Drug Offenders

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of prisoners serving time for federal drug offenses will be eligible to seek early release beginning next year.

The United States Sentencing Commission, which voted in April to reduce the penalties for most drug crimes, voted unanimously on Friday to make that change retroactive. It will apply to nearly 50,000 federal inmates who are serving time under the old rules.


July 10, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Shadow Report of The Sentencing Project to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Along with 11 allied civil rights and justice reform organizations, The Sentencing Project submitted a shadow report regarding racial disparities in the justice system to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Our report documents continuing disparities in incarceration, the imposition of juvenile life without parole, the death penalty, and felony disenfranchisement. The review of United States’ compliance with the CERD convention will take place in August.


July 7, 2014
The Sentencing Project Urges Retroactivity for Reduced Federal Drug Penalties

The Sentencing Project is urging the U.S. Sentencing Commission to apply reduced penalties for federal drug offenses retroactively.  

In April, the Commission unanimously voted to lower penalties across drug types, resulting in a sentence reduction of about 11 months for those individuals who would benefit.  The Commission will now consider whether to apply those reductions retroactively to the tens of thousands of people serving prison terms under penalties that are widely seen as excessive.  The Department of Justice has urged the Commission to limit the scope of cases in which retroactivity would apply. 


July 7, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Disenfranchisement News

National: Rand Paul Seeks to Restore Voting Rights in Federal Elections

Arresting Citizenship Examines Criminal Justice Impact on Political Participation

Tennessee: Levels of Voter Disenfranchisement Remain High

Alabama: State Fixes Error: Marijuana Possession No Longer Bars Voting

Florida: Law School Graduate Unable to Practice Law Due to Felony Conviction


June 25, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: State Responses to 2012 Supreme Court Mandate on Life Without Parole

On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court struck down laws in 28 states that mandated life without parole (LWOP) for some juvenile offenders. In the wake of Miller v. Alabama, a majority of these states have not passed new laws to address fair sentencing; others have replaced LWOP with mandatory decades-long sentences that dodge the intent of the decision. Slow to Act: State Responses to the 2012 Supreme Court Mandate on Life without Parole is an update on how legislatures and courts in those 28 states and elsewhere have responded.


June 25, 2014 (The Washington Post)
America’s stupidest criminal laws

Imagine this: two defendants, same age, smoke a joint with some friends one July evening in their respective apartments. Neither has a criminal record. Both get caught; one faces an extra two years in jail.

Why? Because he shared drugs within a certain number of feet from a school that’s been out for a month.

The so-called ‘Drug Free School Zone’ is one of many laws that create extra penalties for already illegal acts with no reasonable tie to the public’s safety or the defendant’s particular circumstances.


June 23, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Missouri Expands Eligibility for Food Stamps to Persons with Felony Drug Convictions

Missouri Governor Jay Neal has signed Senate Bill 680, which modifies the federal lifetime ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), for persons with felony drug convictions. Although the new law is a step in the right direction, it imposes a one-year waiting period after a conviction or release from custody.


June 23, 2014 (The Huffington Post)
States Undo Food Stamp Felony Drug Bans

The California Legislature has just passed a bill that will allow people convicted of drug felonies to receive welfare and food stamps. And last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) signed legislation lifting the state's ban on food stamps for felons.