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INCARCERATION


 
The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails -- a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.

U.S. State and Federal Prison Population, 1925-2012

Incarceration News
August 18, 2014 (The New York Times)
Room for Debate: Charged as Adults, Children Are Abandoned When They Could Be Saved

Marc Mauer weighs in on charging children as adults in The New York Times' "Room for Debate" series.


Author: Marc Mauer
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.