The Sentencing Project News
September 16, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Prison Population Reductions Stalled in 2013
Due to expanding prison populations in the majority of states, the total U.S. prison population grew in 2013, according to a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The 1,574,700 inmates in state and federal prisons at yearend 2013 represent an increase of 4,300 prisoners since the previous year. (The rate of incarceration declined from 480 prisoners per 100,000 population to 478 per 100,000 during the year due to increases in the overall U.S. population.) The new figures come after three years of modest decline from a high of 1,615,500 prisoners in 2009.
“These figures challenge premature and overly optimistic forecasts of the end of mass incarceration,” stated Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project. “Tackling the prison juggernaut will require broader reforms to reduce prison admissions and sentence lengths.”
September 8, 2014 (The New York Times)
Crime, Bias and Statistics
Discussions of the relationship between blacks and the criminal justice system in this country too often grind to a halt as people slink down into their silos and arm themselves with their best rhetorical weapons — racial bias on one side and statistics in which minorities, particularly blacks, are overrepresented as criminals on the other.
September 3, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies
This report examines how racial perceptions of crime are a key cause of the severity of punishment in the United States. Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies, authored by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., research analyst at The Sentencing Project, synthesizes two decades of research revealing that white Americans’ strong associations of crime with blacks and Latinos are related to their support for punitive policies that disproportionately impact people of color.
Coming on the heels of the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, the report demonstrates that the consequences of white Americans’ strong associations of crime with blacks and Latinos extend far beyond policing.
August 28, 2014 (Aspenia Online)
US prisons, racial disparity and civil rights in the 21st century, a conversation with Marc Mauer
Racism, crime and poverty. These three issues are so intertwined and ingrained in the US that it often seems like there is no way to untangle the mess (created in relatively little time) responsible for a whole array of troubles so distinctive of American society today. There is no backdrop better suited to discuss this issue than the nation’s prisons. With a large majority of inmates of color, racial profiling is back in public discourse as is felony disenfranchisement (the loss of political rights due to an individual’s criminal record) and the question of how to cut down America’s massive prison population. To dig deeper into the matter we spoke with Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, a Washington-based non-profit group that promotes sentencing policy reform, addresses issues of racial disparity and advocates for alternatives to incarceration.
August 20, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Statement by Marc Mauer on Ferguson and the Criminal Justice System
The killing of Michael Brown has brought attention to one young man’s loss of life and to untold numbers of cities, towns, and neighborhoods where the lives of people of color are replete with harassment, humiliation, and unnecessary encounters with the justice system. We mourn with Michael Brown’s family and community and offer our condolences for their loss.
August 18, 2014 (The New York Times)
Room for Debate: Charged as Adults, Children Are Abandoned When They Could Be Saved
Marc Mauer weighs in on charging children as adults in The New York Times' "Room for Debate" series.
Author: Marc Mauer
August 7, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
National: Bipartisan Efforts for National Felony Disenfranchisement Reform
Wyoming: State Bill Could Restore Voting Rights to Thousands
Kentucky: Louisville Metro Council Unanimously Approves Resolution in Support of Automatic Rights Restoration
August 2, 2014 (Al Jazeera America)
Holder: Data-driven prison sentencing ‘unfair’ to minorities
Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday expressed concern about the fairness of judges who rely on big data to sentence criminal defendants, saying the use of such “risk assessments” in several states could exacerbate racial disparities among the prison population.
Holder, who made the comments during a Philadelphia speech to criminal defense lawyers, said the use of such data results in unfair treatment of minorities.
“Basing a sentence on something other than the conduct of the person involved and the person’s record, you’re looking, for instance, at factors like the person’s education level, what neighborhood the person comes from,” Holder said in an interview with PBS on Thursday. “They’re using this as a predictor of how likely this person as an individual is going to be a recidivist. I’m not at all certain that I’m comfortable with that … I think the result is fundamental unfairness.”
Research has shown that racial minorities who don’t have regular jobs or steady families are likely to be charged with more severe crimes, leading to longer prison sentences, according to Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a research analyst for The Sentencing Project, an organization dedicated to sentencing reform in U.S. prisons.
August 1, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race & Justice News
Federal: Federal Agency Targets People of Color in Drug Sting Operations
Prosecution: Racial Disparities Highlighted in New York City Prosecutions
Policing: Justice Department Requires Police Agencies to Reduce Racial Bias
VA Police Chief Says Bias Not Cause of Racially Disparate Drug Arrests
July 25, 2014 (The Daily Drum, WHUR at Howard University)
People incarcerated on non-violent drug charges are a bit closer to getting out of federal prison years early
The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently voted to apply reduced drug penalties retroactively to over 46,000 people serving excessive sentences for federal drug offenses -- potentially reducing average prison terms by two years.
The vote reflects a historic shift in the nation’s approach to substance abuse. There’s an emerging consensus among both Republicans and Democrats that using the criminal justice system to address substance abuse is both too expensive and doesn’t work in terms of promoting public safety. Policymakers of both parties are increasingly recognizing that the war on drugs has come at a ruinous cost for all Americans, but particularly for communities of color.
Jeremy Haile, federal advocacy counsel for The Sentencing Project, recently appeared with other advocates on The Daily Drum with Harold Fisher to discuss the Commission's vote and the changing politics of criminal justice reform. You can listen to a clip from the program here.