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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
August 28, 2014 (Aspenia Online)
US prisons, racial disparity and civil rights in the 21st century, a conversation with Marc Mauer

Racism, crime and poverty. These three issues are so intertwined and ingrained in the US that it often seems like there is no way to untangle the mess (created in relatively little time) responsible for a whole array of troubles so distinctive of  American society today. There is no backdrop better suited to discuss this issue than the nation’s prisons. With a large majority of inmates of color, racial profiling is back in public discourse as is felony disenfranchisement (the loss of political rights due to an individual’s criminal record) and the question of how to cut down America’s massive prison population. To dig deeper into the matter we spoke with Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, a Washington-based non-profit group that promotes sentencing policy reform, addresses issues of racial disparity and advocates for alternatives to incarceration.


August 20, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Statement by Marc Mauer on Ferguson and the Criminal Justice System

The killing of Michael Brown has brought attention to one young man’s loss of life and to untold numbers of cities, towns, and neighborhoods where the lives of people of color are replete with harassment, humiliation, and unnecessary encounters with the justice system. We mourn with Michael Brown’s family and community and offer our condolences for their loss.


August 18, 2014 (The New York Times)
Room for Debate: Charged as Adults, Children Are Abandoned When They Could Be Saved

Marc Mauer weighs in on charging children as adults in The New York Times' "Room for Debate" series.


Author: Marc Mauer
August 7, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Disenfranchisement News

National: Bipartisan Efforts for National Felony Disenfranchisement Reform

Wyoming: State Bill Could Restore Voting Rights to Thousands

Kentucky: Louisville Metro Council Unanimously Approves Resolution in Support of Automatic Rights Restoration


August 2, 2014 (Al Jazeera America)
Holder: Data-driven prison sentencing ‘unfair’ to minorities

Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday expressed concern about the fairness of judges who rely on big data to sentence criminal defendants, saying the use of such “risk assessments” in several states could exacerbate racial disparities among the prison population.

Holder, who made the comments during a Philadelphia speech to criminal defense lawyers, said the use of such data results in unfair treatment of minorities.

“Basing a sentence on something other than the conduct of the person involved and the person’s record, you’re looking, for instance, at factors like the person’s education level, what neighborhood the person comes from,” Holder said in an interview with PBS on Thursday. “They’re using this as a predictor of how likely this person as an individual is going to be a recidivist. I’m not at all certain that I’m comfortable with that … I think the result is fundamental unfairness.”

Research has shown that racial minorities who don’t have regular jobs or steady families are likely to be charged with more severe crimes, leading to longer prison sentences, according to Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a research analyst for The Sentencing Project, an organization dedicated to sentencing reform in U.S. prisons.