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The Sentencing Project News
February 24, 2015
The State of Sentencing 2014: Developments in Policy and Practice

The State of Sentencing 2014 highlights policy changes in 30 states and the District of Columbia in both the adult and juvenile justice systems, including scaling back sentences for low-level drug offenses, reducing barriers to reentry, and eliminating juvenile life without parole. The reforms highlighted in this report represent approaches that lawmakers and advocates can consider to address sentencing policy and collateral consequences at the state level.


Author: Nicole D. Porter
February 24, 2015
State Criminal Justice Advocacy in a Conservative Environment

State Criminal Justice Advocacy in a Conservative Environment documents successful advocacy strategies employed in campaigns in Indiana, Missouri, and Texas. 

In these states, advocates achieved the following reforms:

  • Reduced enhanced penalties in drug-free zones in Indiana by shrinking the limit of zones from 1,000 feet to 500 feet, and eliminating all zones except those around schools and parks
  • Modified Missouri’s federal lifetime ban on food stamp benefits for persons with felony drug convictions
  • Closed two Texas prison facilities: the Dawson State Jail and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility

Author: Nicole D. Porter
February 13, 2015 (The Huffington Post)
Politics of Black Lives Matter: Broadening Public Safety Priorities Beyond Arrests and Prisons

The Huffington Post recently published a piece by Nicole Porter, Director of Advocacy at The Sentencing Project, as part of the "Black Future Month" series celebrating Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal justice reform


February 12, 2015 (Salon)
“It starts off as an arrest and things get out of control”: Why Broken Windows must be scaled back

Earlier this week, a grand jury in New York City decided to indict an NYPD officer for recklessly wielding his authority and taking the life of a young African-American man named Akai Gurley. Finally, after a summer and fall characterized by racial strife and conflict between police officers and minority communities, the system was working, right? The answer is, yes and no — because unlike the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases, the officer indicted in this instance, a 27-year-old named Peter Liang, was not white. And among the African-Americans in Brooklyn who knew the late Gurley, this fact did not go unnoticed.

As is sadly always the case in today’s media environment, the #blacklivesmatter story has faded considerably since it dominated television broadcasts and newspapers all over the country. But the problem that the #blacklivesmatter movement is trying to address — the problem of a criminal justice system that is institutionally and endemically biased against African-Americans, and indeed all people of color — has not gone away. Which is why “Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System,” a new report from The Sentencing Project, is so important.


February 12, 2015 (The Toronto Star)
FBI director acknowledges racial bias in policing

During his speech on race and policing at Georgetown Univeristy on Thursday, FBI director James Comey quoted a show tune and admitted that some police officers are prejudiced against the black community.

“We all, white and black, carry various biases around with us,” he said at Georgetown University on Thursday. “I am reminded of the song from the Broadway hit Avenue Q, “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” part of which goes like this: “Look around and you will find/No one’s really colourblind/Maybe it’s a fact/We all should face/Everyone makes judgments/Based on race.”

The frank acknowledgment of racial bias by a successor to J. Edgar Hoover was hailed by policing reform advocates as a historic moment. Marc Morial, chief executive of the National Urban League, and Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, said in interviews that they had never heard anything similar from any of Comey’s six predecessors.


February 3, 2015 (The Sentencing Project)
Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System

Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice SystemA new publication from The Sentencing Project provides a comprehensive review of programs and policies across the nation and identifies a broad range of initiatives that can address racial disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system. Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System highlights initiatives in more than 20 states designed to address the criminal justice system’s high rate of contact with people of color.

In the wake of the tragedies in Ferguson and other cities, excessive police contact has been identified as a major cause of the disproportionate rate of fatal police encounters for African Americans and Latinos. The report identifies four key features of the criminal justice system that produce racially unequal outcomes, beyond the conditions of socioeconomic inequality that contribute to higher rates of some crimes in marginalized communities, and showcases initiatives to abate these sources of inequity in adult and juvenile justice systems around the country.


January 29, 2015 (C-SPAN)
Proposed Changes to Criminal Justice System

"We have two systems of justice: one for the rich, and one for the poor," Marc Mauer told host Greta Wodele Brawner this morning.

The Sentencing Project's Executive Director was on C-SPAN discussing proposed changes to the nation’s criminal justice system, including sentencing reform and changes to death penalty laws, as well as how the next attorney general could affect these policies.


January 27, 2015
Race and Justice News

International: Racial Disparities in Incarceration in UK and Australia Exceed Those in United States 

Collateral Consequences: Jobseekers with Minor Arrest Records Face Employment Barriers 

Criminal Records Produce Widespread Economic Barriers 

Books: Bryan Stevenson: "Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done" 

Reforms: Justice Department Expands Rules Against Racial Profiling for Federal Law Enforcement, with Major Exceptions 


January 21, 2015 (Associated Press)
First Racial-Impact Law Seen as Having Modest Effect in Iowa

After a 2007 report showed that Iowa had the nation's highest disparity for sending blacks to prison, state lawmakers took a novel step: They passed a law requiring analysts to draft "racial-impact statements" on any proposals to create new crimes or tougher penalties.

The governor at the time said the statements would be "an essential tool" to understand how minority communities might be affected before any votes are cast.

A review by The Associated Press shows that the first-in-the-nation law appears to be having a modest effect, helping to defeat some legislation that could have exacerbated disparities and providing a smoother path to passage for measures deemed neutral or beneficial to minorities.


January 15, 2015
Disenfranchisement News

Virginia: Governor restores voting rights of more than 5,100 formerly incarcerated individuals

Iowa: Task force fails to fix problems with database of ineligible voters

Minnesota: Minnesota Conversations: Felony Voting

Florida: State legislators and advocates propose automatic rights restoration

Kentucky: Bi-partisan support for voting rights bill in General Assembly

International: Nigerian court upholds the right of citizens in prison to vote in all elections