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April 2, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: Juvenile Life Without Parole

Recent Supreme Court rulings have banned the use of capital punishment for juveniles and mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles (JLWOP). Still, the United States stands alone as the only nation that sentences people to life without parole for crimes committed before turning 18.

This briefing paper reviews the Supreme Court precedents that limited the use of JLWOP and the challenges that remain.


April 1, 2014 (WVTF Public Radio)
Crisis in Correctional Care: Pressing for Prison Reform

By the end of this year, California must release 9,600 prisoners from the nation’s largest correctional system, because the Supreme Court says overcrowding makes it impossible to provide adequate healthcare for inmates.

Failing to do so constitutes cruel and unusual punishment - a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Virginia’s prisons are also crowded and facing a lawsuit over medical care.

The Supreme Court has said prisons must provide adequate medical services. State legislators know that, and ten years ago they were given a detailed report of serious problems with healthcare behind bars in Virginia.

But Hope Amezquita with Virgnia’s ACLU says they did nothing, and her colleague, lawyer Gabe Eber, says voters probably didn’t care. “A lot of people would say, ‘I don’t have a right to healthcare. I don’t have insurance. I can’t get my cavities filled. Why should this murderer or this thief or this sex offender get free healthcare? That’s probably one of the reasons there hasn’t been more outrage.”


April 1, 2014
Blumenthal Vows Sentencing Reform

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D- Conn., visited a civics class at Common Ground, an environmental, and talked about a gun violence, the “school-to-prison pipeline and how the judicial system seems to disproportionately impact young minority men.

“The prison system is not working,” and sentences need to be lowered, said Blumenthal.

Connecticut has one of the most disparate rates of incarceration between blacks and whites: 12 times as many black people are locked up than white, according to a map at The Sentencing Project.


April 1, 2014 (Socialistworker.org)
Raising babies in prison

shadow of mother and child behind bars

Prison nurseries have existed in this country for a century--the first was established in 1901 at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility north of New York City—but there is renewed interest in expanding these programs today.

The expansion of mother-infant programs coincides with the increasing incarceration of women. Over 200,000 women are behind bars and over 1 million are on probation or parole, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.) And the number of prisons for women has multiplied eight times over the last three decades, according to a 2006 report from the Institute on Women and Criminal Justice.

The majority of incarcerated women are charged with nonviolent offenses.

Because women tend to be the primary caretakers of children, the massive increase in women's incarceration has had devastating effects on families. According to a report from The Sentencing Project, one of every 50 children in the U.S. has one or more parents incarcerated.


March 31, 2014 (The Washington Post)
U.S. drug war slowly shifts fire away from low-level users

New Jersey’s new “Good Samaritan law,’’ which immunizes from prosecution people who call 911 to report an overdose even if they are using drugs themselves, is part of an emerging shift in the country’s approach to illegal drugs.

With aggressive enforcement, the number of people jailed nationwide for drug offenses exploded from 41,000 in 1980 to 499,000 in 2011, according to a report from The Sentencing Project, a think tank that advocates criminal justice changes.

Four decades after the federal government declared war on narcotics, the prevailing tough-on-drugs mentality is today giving way to a more nuanced view, one that emphasizes treatment and health nearly as much as courtrooms and law enforcement, according to addiction specialists and other experts.