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October 2, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Felony Disenfranchisement and the 2014 Midterm Elections

As the 2014 midterm elections approach, an estimated 5.85 million Americans will be unable to exercise their voting rights due to a current or previous felony conviction. Of the total disenfranchised population, 2.6 million have completed their sentences, yet are disenfranchised in the 12 states with the most restrictive policies. Overall, 75% of disenfranchised individuals are living in the community, either under probation or parole supervision, or having completed their sentences. Disenfranchisement policies have potentially affected the outcomes of previous U.S. elections, particularly as disenfranchisement laws disproportionately impact communities of color, leaving one in every 13 black adults voiceless in the electoral process.


September 29, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
California Adopts Fair Sentencing Act (SB 1010). Equalizes Penalties for Certain Crack and Powder Cocaine Offenses.

California Governor Jerry Brown has just signed Senate Bill 1010.  The legislation eliminates the disparity in sentencing, probation, and asset forfeiture guidelines for possession of crack cocaine for sale versus the same crime involving powder cocaine. The law takes effect in January.


September 25, 2014 (The Daily Journal)
How California Stands Apart on Lifer Parole Policies

“Gerald Denson” was convicted of first-degree murder in Los Angeles County in 1983. He was sentenced to 25 years to life plus two years for using a firearm. Four years ago, the California parole board found him suitable for parole based on his record in prison. But Denson remains behind bars, 31 years after his conviction, because California is among a handful of states that allow the governor to reverse the decisions of a governor-appointed parole board. If Denson were serving his sentence in any of 45 other states, he would be a free man.

A quarter of California’s 135,000 prisoners are “lifers” sentenced to serve up to life with the possibility of parole. The national rate is only 7 percent. California has not always been an outlier: In 1990, lifers accounted for 8 percent of the state’s prison population. The state has achieved this distinction because of its sentencing and parole policies, not its crime rates. 


Author: Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D.
September 22, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race and Justice News

Policing: Protests in Ferguson, MO spur local and federal initiatives 

Reforms: Georgia's incarceration rate for African Americans drops 20% in five years 

Ethnic Disparities: California Latinos face cumulative disadvantage in the criminal justice system 

Probation: Probation is revoked at higher rates for African Americans 


September 16, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Prison Population Reductions Stalled in 2013

U.S. Prison Population 1925-2013

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 15, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Disenfranchisement News

Florida: Voting Rights in Jail 

Wyoming: Opportunity for Reform 

Kentucky: New voting rights bill in consideration for 2015 

International: ECHR rules ban on prisoner voting violates human rights

Voting from behind bars in Ireland 


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.