The Sentencing Project News
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.
June 16, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race & Justice News
Immigration: Tulsa Police: Local Immigration Enforcement Harms Public Safety
County Sheriffs End Immigration Detention, Fearing Liability
Public Opinion: Racial Divide in Perceptions of Washington State's Justice System
Books: Get a Job by Robert D. Crutchfield
On the Run by Alice Goffman
Juvenile Justice: Comprehensive Report on Improving School Discipline
Foundations Build on My Brother's Keeper Initiative
June 11, 2014 (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The link between felon disenfranchisement, politics, and health
About 7.7% of voting age African Americans are currently prohibited from voting compared to 2.5% of the U.S. population. Pennsylvania is among the more progressive states in this regard; only current prisoners are prevented from casting ballots, with 2.5% of the state’s African Americans (0.6% of all races) disenfranchised, according to the Sentencing Project. When the analysis is limited to males, who are far more likely to be imprisoned, it finds that 13% of African American men are disenfranchised nationwide. An African American male born today has a 1-in-3 chance of being disenfranchised at some point in his life.
If a group of people can’t vote, the politicians who care about their health needs might be less likely to win elections.
June 10, 2014 (The National Association for Public Defense)
"Tough" Sentences Don't Deter Crime
How frequently have we heard a judge say to a defendant on the day of sentencing, “I’m sending you to prison because I want to send a message that we won’t tolerate this kind of behavior?” The “message” is supposed to be a deterrent to potential offenders to cause them to refrain from engaging in crime out of concern that they’ll end up in prison. Aside from the fact that only in the unusual case does anyone outside the courtroom even hear the message, there’s little evidence that harsh sentences produce any significant deterrent effects. Criminologists have known this for hundreds of years.
Author: Marc Mauer
June 10, 2014 (The Washington Times)
Holder eyes shorter prison terms for drug offenders
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday endorsed a plan to shorten prison sentences for certain inmates as part of his pursuit of administrative reforms he says will make the system more fair to people of color and reduce taxpayer costs.
The proposal would make eligible for reduced sentences about 20,000 of nearly 215,000 inmates in federal prisons, the Justice Department said. Individuals with non-violent, low-level drug convictions and without "deep criminal ties" would qualify for retroactive sentences.
June 3, 2014 (Huffington Post)
I Am My Brother's Keeper
An op-ed by Reverend Al Sharpton:
I could have easily been a statistic. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, it was easy -- a little too easy -- to get into trouble. Surrounded by poor schools, lack of resources, high unemployment rates, poverty, gangs and more, I watched as many of my peers fell victim to a vicious cycle of diminished opportunities and imprisonment. If it weren't for the mentorship and guidance from people like my mother, James Brown and others, I wouldn't have been able to make something of my life.
June 2, 2014
California's Fair Sentencing Act to Equalize Penalties Advances
The Sentencing Project submitted a letter to California's Assembly Public Safety Committee in support of Senate Bill 1010. The proposed legislation has been approved by the state's Senate and would equalize penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. Sentences for intent-to-sell crack convictions range from three to five years in current state law, compared to two to four years for powder. Crack convictions in low-income communities and communities of color are more common because crack is cheaper than powder. SB 1010 would eliminate the difference in sentencing, probation and asset forfeiture rules for low level powder and crack cocaine offenses.
June 2, 2014 (The Boston Globe)
Convicted as teen, inmate shouldn’t have had to wait decades to be heard
A letter to the editor from The Sentencing Project's State Advocacy Associate, Joshua Rovner:
IN THE May 26 editorial “After 2 decades, teen offender deserves a chance for parole,” the Globe highlighted the case of Joseph Donovan, still imprisoned for his role in a 1992 crime. Donovan was just 17 when he senselessly punched Yngve Raustein; a 15-year old accomplice then stabbed and killed Raustein, who had fallen to the ground.
Under a pair of misguided laws, Massachusetts had no choice but to sentence Donovan to a mandatory term of life without parole. Though 17, he was sentenced as if he were an adult. Though he did not kill Raustein, he was convicted of felony murder.