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State Advocacy News: Community Challenges to Life Imprisonment

October 30, 2020
The Sentencing Project convened a national day of action in commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the Attica uprising and to demand life sentenced prisoners be included in COVID-19-related decarceration efforts. Groups around the country organized grassroots actions in support of prison releases.

We convened a national day of action in commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the Attica uprising and to demand life sentenced prisoners be included in COVID-19-related decarceration efforts. Groups around the country organized grassroots actions in support of prison releases.


Community Challenges to Life Imprisonment

Activists in a dozen states and localities organized virtual demonstrations and rallies to demand prison population reductions. The events brought together hundreds of supporters including family members, formerly incarcerated activists, faith leaders, and others.

  • Alabama CURE convened a virtual panel on the need to decarcerate the state’s chronically overcrowded prisons entitled Decarceration of Alabama Prisons amid a Pandemic.
  • Groups in California addressed mass incarceration and life imprisonment in the Attica Means Fight Back event.
  • Common Cause Georgia discussed the need to decarcerate in the time of COVID-19
  • Activists with the Iowa Justice Action Network held Racism in Our Own Backyard and a virtual reading of written testimonies of persons sentenced to life prison terms.
  • The Chicago 400 Alliance discussed lack of inclusion for 1,400 persons with sex offenses among Illinois prison releases and unhoused persons with sex offense convictions because of housing restrictions.
  • Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform held a Day of Reflection and Action in support of decarceration. The discussion also highlighted the history of Maryland’s prison uprisings.
  • In Massachusetts, the Coalition for Effective Public Safety partnered with other state groups to address parole revocations and demand decarceration.
  • Nebraskans for Prison Reform held a discussion to reduce the prison population by fifty percent over the next 10 years.

State advocates in Washington DC, Oregon, New York and Michigan also anchored efforts to support releasing persons in prison amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Other News

  • California – Lawmakers passed the Racial Justice Act. The law allows defendants to challenge sentencing and convictions based on patterns of systemic racial discrimination.
  • California – Prison population declined by more than 21,000 since the start of the pandemic leading to prison closures.
  • Colorado – Gov. Jared Polis issued mass pardons for 2,700 residents with low-level marijuana possession convictions.
  • Florida – State prison population was lowest in 15 years due to COVID-related decline in admissions.
  • Illinois – Legislative Black Caucus held a second hearing to address sentencing policies for violent offenses including truth-in-sentencing provisions and mandatory minimums.
  • Kansas – Gov. Laura Kelly established a bipartisan task force to address prison growth and reduce corrections spending.
  • Michigan – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a clean slate bill authorizing automatic record sealing for certain criminal convictions.
  • New Jersey – Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation projected to release up to 3,000 persons in prison amid the pandemic.
  • Oklahoma – Voters will consider a ballot measure to minimize sentencing enhancements known to lengthen state prison terms.
  • Vermont – Legislature enacted criminal legal reforms to address systemic racism.
  • Virginia – Gov. Ralph Northam signed criminal legal reform legislation.
 
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