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The Sentencing Project News
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.


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.