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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
October 3, 2015 (NPR)
Here's One Thing Washington Agreed On This Week: Sentencing Reform

"It's wonder enough in sharply-divided Washington that nine Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate came together this week to do anything, let alone touch the once politically charged arena of crime and punishment. But groups as different as the ACLU and Koch Industries had joined this year in a coalition to press for change, and so too did senators as different as Iowa Republican Charles Grassley and Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin," reports NPR.

October 1, 2015 (The Sentencing Project)
Momentous Legislation Indicates "Tough on Crime" Days are Over

Today, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are coming together to end a disastrous era of "tough on crime" politics. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, introduced today by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), takes a number of steps forward to reverse harsh penalties that have come at a ruinous cost to families and taxpayers while producing diminishing returns for public safety.

September 14, 2015
Race & Justice News: Supreme Court to review Georgia death penalty case for racial bias

Reforms: Policing and Municipal Courts in Ferguson and Missouri

Stop and Frisk in Chicago 

ABA-LDF Joint Statement on Eliminating Bias in the Criminal Justice System 

Persistent Racial Disparities Following Marijuana Reforms in Miami-Dade and Seattle 

School Discipline: Students of Color More Likely to Receive Harsh Response to Misbehavior 

Racial Disparities in School Discipline in Southern States 

Advocacy and Reforms in Miami-Dade, Texas, and Compton 

Youth Justice: Justice Department Finds Racial Bias in St. Louis County Youth Courts 

Death Penalty: Constitutional Concerns with Executions in Lousiana, Colorado, and Georgia 

September 11, 2015 (WBUR)
Race, Class And The Response To Today’s Heroin Epidemic

The Sentencing Project's Executive Director Marc Mauer appeared on WBUR's Here and Now to discuss race, class, and the response to today’s prescription opioid and heroin epidemic with host Robin Young and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. In the late 1980s and ’90s, Mayor Schmoke was way out ahead on this issue, shocking people by advocating for decriminalizing the use of drugs, and for treating addiction as a public health crisis.

September 10, 2015
State Advocacy Update: Connecticut Reclassifies Certain Felony Offenses to Misdemeanors

Many state advocates are in the process of getting ready for the next legislative session. Planning may involve organizing strategy meetings or engaging new coalition partners.  Preparing for next year is leading many state advocates to assess policy goals that address mass incarceration and enhance grassroots communication strategies among state-based networks. 

Reclassifying Felony Offenses:

Scaling Back Mandatory Minimums:

Other News: Alabama, Texas, California, and Tennessee