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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, 1925-2013

Incarceration News
November 25, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
The Sentencing Project on the Tragedy in Ferguson

The tragic death of Michael Brown and the subsequent developments in Ferguson are cause for great concern. The outpouring of emotion following the decision of the grand jury to not issue an indictment is a strong statement of the degree to which the circumstances surrounding this death have touched people and resonated with profound feelings about race and the justice system.

We have been here before. The recent cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, as well as Rodney King and the Jena 6, have animated ongoing conversations about race and justice. In many ways these dialogues are constructive, but we must do more than engage in rhetoric on a case-by-case basis.

Perceptions of unfairness in the justice system undermine confidence in the system in communities of color, which in turns harms approaches to public safety. Interventions can be adopted to address structural problems that plague the nation’s criminal justice system. In recent years there has been modest progress: documentation of racial profiling has resulted in changes in policy and practice in many jurisdictions; sentencing reforms at the state and federal level have scaled back excessive penalties applied disproportionately to people of color; and in both the adult and juvenile justice systems, the number of incarcerated African Americans has declined modestly in recent years.

Even so, we still are faced with a society and a criminal justice system in which one of every three African American men, and one of every six Hispanic men, can expect to go to prison in his lifetime if current trends continue. Dispelling the illusion that the American justice system is colorblind is a crucial step in addressing racial disparities. A shameful truth is that too often, there is a different criminal justice system for whites and blacks, and for the wealthy and the poor. These circumstances are unconscionable and can only be addressed through continuing and comprehensive change.

At The Sentencing Project, we are proud to be among organizations and individuals working towards reform and racial justice. The recent events remind us of the importance of engaging in these struggles. We welcome your active collaboration with us in the weeks and months ahead.


November 19, 2014
State Advocacy Update: 2014 Midterm Analysis and More

2014 Midterm Analysis

Helpful Campaign Strategies

Reducing Prison Population

Other News


November 17, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: Incorporating Racial Equity into Criminal Justice Reform

There are few areas of American society where racial disparities are as profound and as troubling as in the criminal justice system. Our newest report, Incorporating Racial Equity into Criminal Justice Reform, provides an overview of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and a framework for developing and implementing remedies for these disparities.


November 14, 2014 (The Daily Journal)
Support grows to end excessive punishment

The success of California’s Proposition 47 — the ballot initiative that reduces penalties for drug possession and certain property crimes — may mark a new day for criminal justice reform. With a 58 percent victory margin, voters rejected some of the excesses of the “tough on crime” era. Prop. 47 signaled, according to the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, that voters are no longer “in the same fearful, punishing mood as when they passed three-strikes and other harsh initiatives.” But as encouraging as this reform is, California must take even bolder steps to tackle its high rate of incarceration.

Prop. 47’s key provision established higher monetary thresholds at which five property crimes become “wobblers” — offenses that prosecutors can charge as either felonies or misdemeanors. At values below $950, theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, and forging or writing bad checks will now be charged as misdemeanors for most people. In addition, possession of illegal drugs for personal use has also been reclassified to a misdemeanor.


Author: Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D.
November 7, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Hot Off the Presses: The Sentencing Project's 2014 Newsletter

Our 2014 Newsletter is out! Read it to find out what we’ve been up to in the last year, including:

  • How three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – reduced their prison populations in the range of 25% and saw their crime rates generally decline even faster than the national average
  • Updates on federal sentencing reform, including the United States Sentencing Commission’s decision to apply their reduced sentencing guidelines retroactively to 46,000 people currently serving time for drug offenses
  • How state advocates from across the country gained insight and support in strategizing for racial impact statements from The Sentencing Project during our State Advocacy Convening

…and much more!