The Sentencing Project News
February 4, 2014 (Christian Science Monitor)
Declining prison populations may benefit incarcerated mothers the most
Until her release from prison last year for drug-related offenses, Cecilia Mancinas was just like two-thirds of the 200,000-plus women incarcerated in the United States: behind bars for a nonviolent offense.
Mancinas will have been out of prison for a year in February. This time, she is determined to stay out -- and remain part of a trend: three straight years of declining US prison populations after a decades-long rise.
It's a trend that has special meaning for women with children – a demographic that has dealt with distinct challenges related to incarceration and now appears to be benefiting from less emphasis on harsh sentences for nonviolent offenses.
"The decline in women's incarceration appears to be related to fewer drug offenders in prison,” says Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, a criminal justice research and advocacy group. “As harsh sentencing policies have begun to be scaled back, and diversion programs expanded, fewer women are now being sentenced to lengthy prison terms for lower-level drug offenses."
Beginning in the early 1970s, the “war on drugs” led to a surge in the US prison population of both men and women. But as a percentage, women saw a greater increase. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of women in federal and state prison rose by 646 percent, from 15,118 to 112,797, according to a report from The Sentencing Project. Counting women in local jails brought the US total of female prisoners in 2010 to more than 205,000. The rise in male incarceration between 1980 and 2010 rose by 419 percent.
February 4, 2014 (Young Adult Library Association)
One of the Great Graphic Novels of 2014--Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling
Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling, by Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer, has just been named one of the Great Graphic Novels of 2014 by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of The American Library Association.. The books, recommended for those ages 12-18, meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens. The graphic novel is based on Mauer’s groundbreaking text, Race to Incarcerate, tells the story of how the United States came to be the world leader in incarceration and the corrosive effects this has had on disadvantaged communities.
February 4, 2014 (Counterpunch)
Smart Sentencing and the Future of Mass Incarceration
Like much of the reform happening in crimnal justice these days, the Smart Sentencing Act is the product of an odd coalition of liberals like Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin and ultra-conservatives like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who have found a rare point of unity in trying to pare down the nation's over-populated, highly racialized prison system.
The Smar Sentencing Act is aimed at reducing mandatory minimums for Federal drug charges and giving judges more discretion in sentencing. With more than 2.2. million people in prisons and jails, nearly 70% of them African-American and Latino, there's lots of work to be done.
Such broad alliances arew yet more evidence that the winds of change are blowing hard on the issue of mass incarceration. What is not so clear is exactly what direction they are blowing and just how strong the storm of change will ultimately be. The Smart Sentencing Act is a good reflection on the complex dynamics at work.
According to the premier progressive think tank on these issues, The Sentencing Project, the Act's main components are:
February 3, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Kentucky: Automatic Rights Restoration Bill Moves to House Floor
Florida: Voters Receiving Telephone Surveys About Charlie Crist's Stance on Felony Disenfranchisement Reform
Florida's Disenfranchisement Policies "Arguably the Most Restrictive Criteria in the Nation"
An Argument for Automatic Rights Restoration
Alabama: "Is Citizenship a Luxury When Poverty Itself Is Treated as a Crime?
International: Parliamentary Committee Recommends Giving Short-Term Prisoners the Vote
February 3, 2014 (MintPressNews)
US States Leading Fight Against Over-Incarceration
A third of U.S. states closed prisons over the past three years, while almost two-thirds enacted reforms to their criminal justice systems aimed at both reducing the number of people under incarceration and smoothening the transition for inmates back into society.
A new report out this week from the Sentencing Project, a watchdog group here, show that 17 states reduced their overall prison capacity by around 37,000 individuals. In 2013 alone, six states closed at least 19 correctional facilities, which the group says will save some $97 million over five years.
The figures highlight a trend that has grown over the past three years, powered both by fiscal concerns and new understandings of social impact around U.S. mass incarceration. By the end of 2012, the U.S. prison population stood at around 1.5 million people, constituting a 1.7 percent reduction from just the previous year.
“After several cycles and three years of moderate prison population decline, we’re now in a space where lawmakers are comfortable to make reforms to bring down populations,” Nicole Porter, director of advocacy at The Sentencing Project and the author of two new reports on the issue, told MintPress.
January 31, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race & Justice News
News: Racial Differences in New York City's Murder Clearance Rates
Research: Black Men Have Higher Cumulative Arrest Histories by Age 18
Black Drivers Targeted in Investigatory Traffic Stops
School Discipline: Departments of Education and Justice: "Racial Discrimination in School Discipline is a Real Problem"
Advocacy: Grading State Legislators on Racial Equity and Offering Resources to Public Defenders
Books: "This Is Not the First, nor the First Staggeringly Racialized, Prison Crisis"
January 31, 2014 (MSNBC)
Effort launched to commute more drug sentences
The Justice Department said Thursday that it will expand on President Obama’s move last month to commute the sentences of eight people serving long sentences for drug crimes.
In remarks prepared for a meeting of the New York State Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section’s annual meeting, Deputy Attorney General James Cole asked attorneys around the country to help the DOJ find men and women serving time for non-violent, low-level offenses that might carry much shorter sentences today.
“We need to identify these individuals and get well-prepared petitions into the Department of Justice,” Cole said in his remarks. The Bureau of Prisons will advise inmates about the new opportunity, but the Justice Department is also urging defense attorneys to be proactive. “This is where you can help. We are looking to the New York State Bar Association and other bar associations to assist potential candidates for executive clemency. “
January 31, 2014 (BBC)
US marijuana laws: Will records be wiped clean?
Moves across the US to legalize marijuana have been greeted by reformers as heralding the end of the "war on drugs". But what happens to people convicted of offences that no longer exist? And will the records of those arrested now be wiped clean?
As the momentum for reform has gathered pace, the fate of those arrested in the past has largely been brushed aside.
Every year for more than three decades, hundreds of thousands of marijuana-related arrests have been made across the US. According to activists, tens of thousands of those arrested for cultivating, selling and trafficking marijuana are currently incarcerated. At least 12 men are serving life-without-parole sentences in federal prisons for marijuana-only, non-violent offenses.
Even those who were not convicted, merely arrested for possessing marijuana - in amounts now legal in Washington or Colorado - have a blot on their police record that can cause problems when they apply for jobs, housing, or student loans.
January 31, 2014 (Huffington Post)
The World's Largest Prison System May Finally Be Starting To Shrink
The U.S. prison system, long criticized as the most bloated in the world, may be slimming down.
After decades of growth, the nation’s prison population has gradually declined over the last three years, prompting states to begin shutting down their prisons, according to a report released by The Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for prison reform.
Between 2011 and 2013, 17 states either closed or agreed to close more than 60 prisons, according to the report. New York led the way, announcing the closure of six prisons in 2011 and six more in 2013. Florida also agreed to shut down 12 prisons, mostly in 2012, and Texas set out to close seven. Illinois, Oregon and Georgia have either closed or agreed to close four apiece.
The closures and expected closures allowed state governments to save $337,380,141 in 2012, and $97,302,782 in 2013.
January 30, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Reports: State Prison Closures, Sentencing Policy Reforms, 2013
The Sentencing Project released two reports that highlight states downsizing prison systems and adopting sentencing policy reforms. Our research documents a three-year trend of prison closings that produced a reduction of 35,000 beds, including six states reducing capacity by 11,000 beds in 2013.