The Sentencing Project News
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.
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)
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.