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Sentencing policies brought about by the "war on drugs" resulted in a dramatic growth in incarceration for drug offenses. At the Federal level, prisoners incarcerated on a drug charge comprise half of the prison population, while the number of drug offenders in state prisons has increased thirteen-fold since 1980. Most of these people are not high-level actors in the drug trade, and most have no prior criminal record for a violent offense.

The Sentencing Project works actively to reform the federal mandatory penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses to make them more equitable and fair. To become involved visit our crack reform page.

Number of People in Prisons and Jails for Drug Offenses, 1980 and 2011

Drug Policy News
January 7, 2016 (Guardian)
Our compassion for drug users should not be determined by race

"Political leaders are displaying increasing amounts of empathy for those suffering from addiction. But, in a society still largely divided along racial lines, our willingness to express compassion is all too often a function of how much we can personally identify with those who are suffering – and that goes for presidential candidates too," writes The Sentencing Project's Executive Director Marc Mauer in the Guardian.

November 17, 2015 (Courier-Journal)
Congress should pass criminal justice reform

"A few weeks ago, a remarkable thing happened in Congress. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a substantive criminal justice reform bill that stands a good chance of passage in the coming months," writes Jeremy Haile in the Courier-Journal.

Author: Jeremy Haile
November 16, 2015 (Minnesota Public Radio)
Does race change the way people discuss drug crimes?

"Does race change the way people discuss drug crimes?" asks Minnesota Public Radio. The Sentencing Project's research analysts Nazgol Ghandnoosh and Ashley Nellis respond.

October 29, 2015
State Advocacy Update: Budget Remedies to Address Mass Incarceration

Budget Remedies to Address Mass Incarceration

Early Start: Legislative Pre-filing

Social Networking for Reform

Other News: Oklahoma, Michigan and New York

This time of year offers advocacy organizations an opportunity to determine policy goals and strengthen the infrastructure necessary to advance reform remedies. Many organizations are in research mode, determining what officials approved in other states and assessing the viability of working towards similar goals in their own jurisdictions. Prior to the start of session many state organizers are convening coalition meetings, discussing points of consensus, and identifying champions for policy goals.

October 25, 2015 (Associated Press)
Early Release: Who the Drug Felons Are and Where They'll Go

At the end of the month, the federal prison system is set to release 6,000 individuals convicted for drug offenses — the largest one-time release of federal prisoners — as part of a national effort to reduce the impact of overly harsh sentencing laws. The Sentencing Project's Executive Director Marc Mauer explains to the Associated Press that the early release of individuals convicted for drug offenses is expected to have a very minimal effect on public safety.