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After decades of "get tough" rhetoric, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are finally coming together to say “enough.” 

In recent months, bold leaders have come together from both parties to craft legislation to reform the way we address federal nonviolent drug offenses. 

The Smarter Sentencing Act, introduced with bipartisan support in both the Senate (S. 1401) and the House (H.R. 3382), takes two significant steps forward on sentencing reform.  First, it reduces overly harsh penalties for drug offenses and allows judges greater flexibility in sentencing.  Second, it extends the more equitable crack cocaine provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively to individuals serving prison terms under the now discredited 100-to-1 sentencing disparity – a disparity that has had a devastating impact on African American communities. 

With the Smarter Sentencing Act, lawmakers are recognizing what practitioners, advocates, and scholars have long understood:  that ever increasing criminal penalties are not an effective way to keep Americans safe. 

Urge your elected representatives in Congress to support the Smarter Sentencing Act today. 



Take Action in Connecticut: Urge your Lawmaker to Modify "Sentencing Enhancement Zones"

In Connecticut persons convicted of possessing drugs within 1,500 feet of an elementary, secondary school or licensed child day care center receive a two-year mandatory minimum sentence. While we should all be concerned about drug-selling activity to children, these laws are overly broad and in many cases apply to offenses where no children are involved. Proposed Bill 6295 would modify the size of these zones from 1,500 to 200 feet, impacting 14.54% of all drug offenses.

Read The Sentencing Project's letter here.

Take Action in Connecticut: Ask Lawmakers to Request Racial Impact Statements

In 2008, the Connecticut Legislature took a step in the right direction when it authorized the request of racial and ethnic impact statements for bills passed successfully out of committee that may impact the state’s correctional population, but these have been requested infrequently. The Sentencing Project encourages members of the relevant committees to request racial and ethnic impact statements during the 2013 Legislative Session.

Read The Sentencing Project's letter here.

Urge Congress to Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws -- which require automatic prison sentences, regardless of the circumstances of the case -- drive our skyrocketing incarceration rates and result in racial disparities.  Urge your elected representatives in Congress to eliminate “one size fits all" mandatory minimum sentences that allow little consideration for individual characteristics and result in unfair sentences, particularly for people of color. 

Tell Congress to Support Reentry, Not More Prisons (The Sentencing Project)

In September the U.S. Senate's Committee on Appropriations approved a bill that would eliminate funding for the Second Chance Act, which provides resources to nonprofits, states and local government to aid people reentering communities after incarceration. Instead, the bill would add $300 million to the federal Bureau of Prisons's $6 billion budget to help kick off a prison building campaign for 7 new prisons in 4 years. This policy will continue a cycle of increasing incarceration and racial disparity that is very difficult to undo.

It is important that Congress knows that building more prisons does not solve our crime problems and there are better alternatives to addressing prison overcrowding.  Ask your representatives in Congress to support the Second Chance Act, rather than prison expansion.


Justice Policy Priorities for the 112th Congress (The Sentencing Project)
In a letter to U.S. House and Senate members The Sentencing Project shared its criminal and juvenile justice policy priorities for the 112th Congress. Included among the issues highlighted are statistics documenting the record growth and expense of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and recommendations for reform that are consistent with public safety goals.  The letter also calls for stronger federal leadership in ensuring fair, empiracally supported, and age-appropriate treatment of at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. 

A Criminal Justice Commission can help lead reform (The Sentencing Project)

Senator Jim Webb has introduced legislation, S. 306 to establish a national commission to study criminal justice issues.

Your Senators need to hear from you if we want a Criminal Justice Commission to address unfairness, excessive sentence length and racial disparity.  Please contact your Senators today and ask them for their support.

End Juvenile Life Without Parole: Sign a Petition Addressed to Pennsylvania's Governor, State Senate and House (Change.org)

There are currently more than 2,500 individuals serving life sentences for crimes committed as a juvenile: 59% had no prior convictions and 26% were convicted because a co-defendant committed murder. These children stand a higher risk of being raped, murdered and assaulted or committing suicide while incarcerated.

No other country in the world sentences juveniles to a life sentence without possibility of parole and in doing so, the U.S. is at odds with three United Nations' resolutions: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and The Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S. and Somalia are the only two countries that have not ratified this document.

If girls as old as 15 can not be responsible for consensual sex, why can a child of 11 be tried as an adult and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole?

take action: sign the petition

The Sentencing Project Endorses the Ex-offender Improvements in Transition Act of 2009 (The Sentencing Project)

The Ex-offender Improvements in Transition Act (EXIT Act) of 2009 (H.R.3053) was introduced by Representative Andre Carson (D-IN). This bill strengthens the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 by repealing the denial to drug felons of eligibility for benefits under the program of temporary assistance for needy families (TANF).  Many states have not eliminated the federal ban on benefits. Those states that have retained the TANF ban implement counterproductive public policies that fail to address the basic needs, including housing and income assistance, of people with felony drug convictions who seek to reintegrate into their communities. The EXIT Act provides vital help to formerly incarcerated persons attempting to successfully reenter society and avoid further contact with the criminal justice system.

Urgent Action Alert: Call DC Council to Urge “no” vote on “emergency” crime bills

On Tuesday, June 16th, the DC Council is expected to vote on “emergency” crime bills, including a proposal by Councilman Evans. DC Council should oppose the Evans bill because it will not increase public safety as the proposal:

  • Casts a broad and wide net that will sweep many people – including people who have not been involved in a crime – into the criminal justice system;
  • Proposes new gun crimes and provisions that are not targeted at reducing gun violence;
  • Adds unnecessary new mandatory minimum sentences and makes it easier to detain people pending trial – proposals which will unnecessarily increase incarceration of District residents;
  • May brand as gang members law-abiding District residents simply on the basis of guilt by association and permanently restrict who they can talk to or associate with in their neighborhoods through "gang injunctions.”