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Sentencing Policy

publications
January 17, 2020

Top Trends in State Criminal Justice Reform, 2019

In recent years most states have enacted reforms designed to reduce the scale of incarceration and the impact of the collateral consequences of a felony conviction. This briefing paper describes key reforms that were prioritized in 2019.
news
State Advocacy News: Strategizing to End Life Imprisonment
December 23, 2019

State Advocacy News: Strategizing to End Life Imprisonment

As the movement to challenge mass incarceration evolves there is growing attention being given to the dramatic impact of life sentences on the prison population. In 2019 national and state groups worked to build the base of support for ending life imprisonment. State advocates and organizers facilitated connections through strategy sessions to support reform.
Featured Story
Featured Story

Kemba Smith

At 24 years old, Kemba Smith was sentenced to 24.5 years in prison for conspiracy to participate in her boyfriend's drug activities, a non-violent, first-time offense. For years, her parents galvanized a tireless movement seeking clemency for their daughter.
news
A death by any other name
December 19, 2019

A death by any other name

Ashley Nellis
Declining support for the death penalty is a victory, but its presence or absence shouldn't be our sole barometer for a proportionate sentencing regime. Life without parole as the "humane alternative" to death is highly problematic.
news
Race & Justice News: Department of Justice Frames Reforms as Anti-Police
December 18, 2019

Race & Justice News: Department of Justice Frames Reforms as Anti-Police

The Department of Justice has framed policing and prosecutorial reforms as anti-police. In recent months, other DOJ officials have joined Attorney General William Barr in similarly framing local prosecutorial reforms.
Featured Story
Featured Story

Theresa McIntyre Smith

In 1999, Theresa Smith was arrested at an airport after she met a drug courier in Roy Mercer’s network and according to the government, identified a suitcase containing eleven kilograms of cocaine for the courier. Smith said she had been told by Mercer that the suitcase contained his nieces’ clothes. For this first-time non-violent offense, Smith was sentenced to a ten-year mandatory prison term.
publications
December 17, 2019

One Year After the First Step Act: Mixed Outcomes

In commemoration of the sentencing reform law’s passage one year ago this week, The Sentencing Project has published an analysis of the law’s successes, challenges and the reform left undone.
news
State Advocacy News: Direct Services to End Life Imprisonment
November 26, 2019

State Advocacy News: Direct Services to End Life Imprisonment

Community organizations working to challenge life imprisonment are anchoring campaigns to address mass incarceration.
Featured Story
Featured Story

Lawrence and Lamont Garrison

Sentences for federal drug crimes are based on the quantity of the drugs involved, not the individual’s role in the crime. The emphasis on quantity rather than the role of the offender, along with the conspiracy laws, too often result in disproportionate sentencing, even for first-time offenses such as the Garrisons’.
publications
November 25, 2019

The Sentencing Project’s 2019 Annual Newsletter

This past year we have seen a growing movement to include people convicted of serious offenses in criminal justice reform efforts.
news
Taking a second look at life imprisonment
November 07, 2019

Taking a second look at life imprisonment

In most Western European nations, sentences of more than 20 years are rare either by statute or in practice. The United States, with just 4 percent of the world’s population, houses more than half of the world’s population of people serving life without parole.
Featured Story
Featured Story

Christopher Poulos

When Chris Poulos was arrested, he experienced firsthand the difference that money can make in the criminal justice system. He recounts the experience in his own words.
news
State Advocacy Update: Inside-Outside Organizing in Ending Life Imprisonment
October 31, 2019

State Advocacy Update: Inside-Outside Organizing in Ending Life Imprisonment

Raising awareness about the realities of lifelong prison terms has surfaced new activism in dismantling mass incarceration. This awareness can build on years of advocacy that aligns the lived experiences of those sentenced to life prison terms to activists on the outside.
publications
October 24, 2019

Private Prisons in the United States

U.S. private prisons incarcerated 121,718 people in 2017, representing 8.2% of the total state and federal prison population.  
Featured Story
Featured Story

Willie Mays Aikens

In 2008, Willie Mays Aikens made headlines when a federal judge reduced his lengthy prison term to 14 years as a result of the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s adjustment to the crack cocaine sentencing guidelines. Aikens was released in June 2008.
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