Incarceration Advocacy Materials
TAKE ACTION: URGE YOUR U.S. SENATOR TO COSPONSOR THE REDEEM ACT (S. 675)
Every year, over 600,000 people walk out of prison and return to our communities. They seek jobs at our local businesses, relax in our public parks and stand in line with us at the supermarket. You would think we would do everything we could to help them transition into productive, law-abiding lives.
You would be wrong. In fact, in America we punish people for being punished.
Consider the felony drug ban, which imposes a lifetime restriction on welfare and food stamp benefits for anyone convicted of a state or federal drug felony. Passed in the “tough on crime” era of the mid-1990s, the ban denies basic assistance to people who may have sold a small amount of marijuana years or even decades ago and have been law-abiding citizens ever since.
The Sentencing Project found that the legislation subjects an estimated 180,000 women in the 12 most impacted states to a lifetime ban on welfare benefits. Given racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system, banning benefits based on a prior drug conviction has brutally unfair consequences for people of color. For example, African-Americans are three to four times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses than whites, even though they use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates. A study by researchers at Yale Medical School found that denying food assistance to women with felony drug convictions compromises public safety.
The felony drug ban is just one of many collateral consequences that formerly incarcerated individuals face as they strive to re-enter society. Continuing to punish people after they have been punished is not only vindictive but also counterproductive to building safe and healthy communities.
The REDEEM Act (S. 675), introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), would repeal the felony drug ban for some people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses and restore their access to welfare and food stamp benefits. It would allow the sealing of criminal records and improve the accuracy of FBI background checks to help ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals can start new lives. In addition, the legislation would improve the treatment of young people in the juvenile justice system.
Urge your U.S. Senator to cosponsor the REDEEM Act (S. 675) today.
TAKE ACTION IN CONGRESS: URGE YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE TO SPONSOR SMARTER SENTENCING
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.
Urge Your Member of Congress to Take Smart Steps to Reduce Prison Costs
Because Congress and the Obama Administration failed to act, deep automatic spending cuts known as sequestration are beginning to take effect. While these cuts could have harmful consequences for our criminal justice system, they also present an opportunity for reform. Rather than slashing federal prison programs -- such as drug treatment and job training -- that reduce long-term costs, a number of administrative and legislative options are available that could more effectively address our budget challenges while ensuring public safety. Congress should prioritize evidence-based policies and programs that would reduce long-term prison costs.
Tell your Member that now is the time to be smart on crime.
Take Action in Texas: Urge Lawmakers to Close the Dawson State Jail
The Sentencing Project in partnership with Grassroots Leadership released the report, Dawson State Jail: The Case for Closure. The report lays out why and how the state of Texas should close Dawson State Jail. The Sentencing Project is an active member of a broad coalition of civil rights, faith, labor, and prisoner rights organizations including groups that represent prisoner's families and those that work in correctional facilities.
Take Action: Eliminate State Crack Sentencing Disparities
Today, 12 states maintain sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses. Please help us urge state lawmakers to prioritize and adopt needed reforms to eliminate sentencing disparities and lessen penalties for low-level crack cocaine offenses.
Take Action in New Hampshire: The Sentencing Project Supports Two Good Bills
The Sentencing Project welcomed the introduction of bills in New Hampshire that authorized earned time release for certain eligible prisoners and would limit the ability of the state to contract with private prison companies.
Read The Sentencing Project's letter in support of limiting private prisons here.
Read The Sentencing Project's letter in support of earned time here.
Share Your Story: Did You Receive a Mandatory Minimum Sentence?
Were you or a loved one sentenced to serve a mandatory minimum? We know that people come in contact with the criminal justice for many reasons. Please share your story with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Take Action in Michigan: Tell your state representative to oppose prison privatization
The Sentencing Project and a group of national and state organizations have sent a letter to the Michigan House of Representative's Appropriations Committee urging lawmakers to vote against efforts to reintroduce private prisons. Michigan previously contracted with a private prison company, but ended the contract in 2005 after the facility was found to cost more than most of the state's publicly operated prisons, while not providing the contractually required levels of service. Similar results have been found in studies looking at prison privatzation on both the federal and state level.
Take Action in Florida: Tell Your State Senator to Oppose Private Prisons
The Sentencing Project and a group of national and state organizations have sent a letter to the Florida Senate urging lawmakers to vote against efforts to expand private prisons as a cost-savings measure. A number of states have chosen an alternative approach by reducing corrections populations and avoiding spending limited resources on new prisons without threatening public safety. Florida should do the same.