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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
July 16, 2015 (Al Jazeera America)
President Obama's prison visit caps big week for justice reform

"President Barack Obama’s tour of El Reno federal prison in Oklahoma on Thursday, the first such visit made to a prison by a sitting president, caps a momentous week for the criminal justice reform movement," reports Al Jazeera America.


July 16, 2015 (MSNBC)
Pres. Obama pushes criminal justice reform

The Sentencing Project's Executive Director Marc Mauer appeared on MSNBC to talk criminal justice reform with USC Law Professor Jody Armour on News Nation. In this segment, they discuss how excessively long sentences do not take into account human capacity for change, the stark racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and rising bi-partisan support for reform measures across the country.


July 14, 2015 (The Sentencing Project)
The Sentencing Project Urges Congress to Act on Criminal Justice Reform

Today, The Sentencing Project joined dozens of criminal justice, civil and human rights, and faith leaders in urging Congress to act to reduce unsustainable federal prison populations and racial disparities in criminal justice system. 

As the House Oversight & Government Reform committee began a two-day examination of the criminal justice system, The Sentencing Project called on Congress to take meaningful steps -- including reducing mandatory drug sentences and promoting recidivism reduction and reentry programming -- to help establish a justice system that is both fair and consistent with public safety.


July 13, 2015 (Los Angeles Times)
Obama grants clemency to 46 individuals serving time for non-violent drug offenses

Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 individuals serving time for drug offenses, doubling the number of clemencies he has granted as part of his administration’s efforts to reform the criminal justice system.


July 1, 2015
State Advocacy Update: Alabama and Texas Address Lifetime Federal Public Benefits Ban

Alabama:

Texas:

Efforts to reinstate federal ban in other states: Pennsylvana, Missouri, and Maine

Other news: Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Virginia

In recent months there has been legislative reform to modify the federal food stamp ban in states like Alabama and Texas. In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) imposed a lifetime denial of federal benefits for cash and food assistance to people convicted in state or federal courts of felony drug offenses; the ban is imposed for no other offenses but drug crimes. States can opt out of the federal ban or modify it by authorizing legislative reform. States that have not authorized a legislative remedy include Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. During 2014, Missouri modified the federal ban and California opted out of the full ban.