Today, there are nearly two million people in the nation’s prisons and jails – a 500% increase over the last 40 years.
Increasingly, punitive changes in sentencing laws and policies, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. Despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety, these trends have resulted in dangerous prison overcrowding as well as weighty fiscal burdens on taxpayers to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system.
The Sentencing Project advocates for effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.
Core policy priorities
Our policy priorities envision the full inclusion in society of people with criminal records and an end to extreme punishments. Our aim is to center the leadership, voices, vision, and experience of those directly affected by mass incarceration to make the rationale for systemic change vivid, credible, and compelling.
These priorities are central to our fundamental underlying goal of promoting racial justice by focusing on the cornerstones of the criminal legal system that act to undermine the power of the Black community and ensure that Black community members are drawn into the criminal legal system and incapacitated for years, decades, and often life.
- Ending extreme sentences
Roll back the extreme punishment paradigm in the U.S. that fuels mass incarceration, including advocating for a cap on punishments for serious offenses at 20 years and a universal “second look” review process for all people who are incarcerated within a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment.
- Expanding voting rights
Ensure universal suffrage for the millions of justice-involved citizens through national, state, and local campaign efforts focused on ending disenfranchisement and expanding voting rights to citizens with felony convictions and citizens detained in jails and youth justice facilities.
- Promoting youth justice
Safeguard youth from the ravages of the adult criminal legal system and push for alternatives to youth involvement in the adult and youth justice systems.
Our commitment to racial justice
We recognize that ending both mass incarceration and the ineffectiveness of our current criminal legal system cannot be achieved without addressing the rampant racism that supports it. This racism costs lives, inflicts atrocities, and prevents the United States from functioning as a true democracy. As The Sentencing Project works to expand our impact, we are guided by a strategic focus on racial justice and a commitment to amplifying the work, voices and leadership of directly impacted individuals, families and communities.
Where we work
The Sentencing Project brings unique value as a bridge organization, uniting work on the ground with overarching policy changes at the national level. We currently partner with 68 national groups and over 150 state-level organizations who are working with us to advance extreme sentencing, voting rights, and youth justice reforms. In all of these partnerships, we are committed to centering the voices, experiences, and leadership of directly impacted individuals and communities, and we use their direction to inform and tailor our support strategies for each collaboration.
Racism instigated and perpetuated this country’s nearly 50-year-old experiment in mass incarceration. Confronting racial injustice remains an intrinsic part of our work.
Changing laws and policies to end mass incarceration require a mass movement. Your voice is vital to making a difference to the individuals, families, and communities impacted by mass incarceration.
Join us in the fight! Support The Sentencing Project with a tax-deductible contribution and help us work for a fair and effective criminal justice system.