Fact Sheets
Featured Video
  • National Press Club Forum: A 25-Year Vision for Criminal Justice Reform
  • Unlocking Justice: Alternatives to Prison
State Contacts

SENTENCING POLICY



Changes in sentencing law and policy, not increases in crime rates, explain most of the six-fold increase in the national prison population. These changes have significantly impacted racial disparities in sentencing, as well as increased the use of “one size fits all" mandatory minimum sentences that allow little consideration for individual characteristics.

 

Sentencing Policy News
October 13, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
The Sentencing Project Files Amicus Brief in Federal Case Involving Mandatory Minimums

The Sentencing Project has filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a decision by the Ninth Circuit that could exacerbate the ill-effects caused by mandatory minimum penalties.


October 2, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Felony Disenfranchisement and the 2014 Midterm Elections

As the 2014 midterm elections approach, an estimated 5.85 million Americans will be unable to exercise their voting rights due to a current or previous felony conviction. Of the total disenfranchised population, 2.6 million have completed their sentences, yet are disenfranchised in the 12 states with the most restrictive policies. Overall, 75% of disenfranchised individuals are living in the community, either under probation or parole supervision, or having completed their sentences. Disenfranchisement policies have potentially affected the outcomes of previous U.S. elections, particularly as disenfranchisement laws disproportionately impact communities of color, leaving one in every 13 black adults voiceless in the electoral process.


September 29, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
California Adopts Fair Sentencing Act (SB 1010). Equalizes Penalties for Certain Crack and Powder Cocaine Offenses.

California Governor Jerry Brown has just signed Senate Bill 1010.  The legislation eliminates the disparity in sentencing, probation, and asset forfeiture guidelines for possession of crack cocaine for sale versus the same crime involving powder cocaine. The law takes effect in January.


September 25, 2014 (The Daily Journal)
How California Stands Apart on Lifer Parole Policies

“Gerald Denson” was convicted of first-degree murder in Los Angeles County in 1983. He was sentenced to 25 years to life plus two years for using a firearm. Four years ago, the California parole board found him suitable for parole based on his record in prison. But Denson remains behind bars, 31 years after his conviction, because California is among a handful of states that allow the governor to reverse the decisions of a governor-appointed parole board. If Denson were serving his sentence in any of 45 other states, he would be a free man.

A quarter of California’s 135,000 prisoners are “lifers” sentenced to serve up to life with the possibility of parole. The national rate is only 7 percent. California has not always been an outlier: In 1990, lifers accounted for 8 percent of the state’s prison population. The state has achieved this distinction because of its sentencing and parole policies, not its crime rates. 


Author: Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D.
September 22, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race and Justice News

Policing: Protests in Ferguson, MO spur local and federal initiatives 

Reforms: Georgia's incarceration rate for African Americans drops 20% in five years 

Ethnic Disparities: California Latinos face cumulative disadvantage in the criminal justice system 

Probation: Probation is revoked at higher rates for African Americans