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DRUG POLICY



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
March 11, 2015 (The Sentencing Project)
Marc Mauer's Testimony to Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections

Marc Mauer testifying to the Colson Task Force

In testimony delivered to the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, calls for reforms to federal sentencing structures to create an upper limit of no more than 20 years in prison, barring exceptional circumstances. Doing so would reduce the federal prison population considerably, avert unnecessary costs of incarceration, and provide resources for more effective public safety investments.


March 31, 2015 (Los Angeles Times)
Obama commutes prison sentences of 22 drug offenders

In a single stroke, President Obama on Tuesday doubled the number of sentence commutations he has granted to federal prisoners since taking office, clearing the way for the release of 22 drug offenders.

The move was part of an administration effort to reduce disparities in drug sentencing and scale back mandatory minimum prison sentences.


March 19, 2015 (The Hill)
Bipartisan moment for drug sentencing reform

"A generation ago, if you asked a Republican and a Democrat to debate criminal justice policy, they would have argued about which party was toughest on crime," writes The Sentencing Project's Federal Advocacy Counsel Jeremy Haile in The Hill. "Now, they’re arguing the other way: who can be smart."


March 16, 2015
Race and Justice News: Girls in the School-to-Prison Pipeline

School-to-Prison Pipeline: Compendium of Suspension Trends for Grades K-12

Girls in the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Reforms: School Discipline Reforms in Texas, Minneapolis, New York, and California

Iowa's Racial Impact Legislation Having Modest Impact

Juvenile Justice: Unwarranted Racial Disparities and Increasing Punitiveness in Juvenile Justice

Drug Law Enforcement: Racial Differences in Drug Arrest Rates Cannot Be Explained by Drug Offending or Community Contexts


March 10, 2015 (The Sentencing Project)
Senators Booker and Paul Reintroduce REDEEM Act to Protect and Restore Lives

On Monday, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) reintroduced the REDEEM Act (S. 675), legislation that would help to protect and restore the lives of individuals who have had contact with the criminal or juvenile justice system, while reducing recidivism.  

The bipartisan REDEEM Act would repeal the felony drug ban for some people convicted of non-violent drug offenses. It would allow the sealing of criminal records and improve the accuracy of FBI background checks. And it would make necessary improvements to the treatment of young people who encounter the juvenile justice system.