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November 25, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
The Sentencing Project on the Tragedy in Ferguson

The tragic death of Michael Brown and the subsequent developments in Ferguson are cause for great concern. The outpouring of emotion following the decision of the grand jury to not issue an indictment is a strong statement of the degree to which the circumstances surrounding this death have touched people and resonated with profound feelings about race and the justice system.

We have been here before. The recent cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, as well as Rodney King and the Jena 6, have animated ongoing conversations about race and justice. In many ways these dialogues are constructive, but we must do more than engage in rhetoric on a case-by-case basis.

Perceptions of unfairness in the justice system undermine confidence in the system in communities of color, which in turns harms approaches to public safety. Interventions can be adopted to address structural problems that plague the nation’s criminal justice system. In recent years there has been modest progress: documentation of racial profiling has resulted in changes in policy and practice in many jurisdictions; sentencing reforms at the state and federal level have scaled back excessive penalties applied disproportionately to people of color; and in both the adult and juvenile justice systems, the number of incarcerated African Americans has declined modestly in recent years.

Even so, we still are faced with a society and a criminal justice system in which one of every three African American men, and one of every six Hispanic men, can expect to go to prison in his lifetime if current trends continue. Dispelling the illusion that the American justice system is colorblind is a crucial step in addressing racial disparities. A shameful truth is that too often, there is a different criminal justice system for whites and blacks, and for the wealthy and the poor. These circumstances are unconscionable and can only be addressed through continuing and comprehensive change.

At The Sentencing Project, we are proud to be among organizations and individuals working towards reform and racial justice. The recent events remind us of the importance of engaging in these struggles. We welcome your active collaboration with us in the weeks and months ahead.


November 20, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Resource for Information and Commentary on Collateral Consequences

The Collateral Consequences Resource Center has launched a new website to raise awareness and promote discussion on the laws and policies that create barriers to reentry. The site will provide news and commentary about developments in courts and legislatures, practice and advocacy resources, and advice about how to restore rights and status in various jurisdictions. The Center aims to reach a broad audience of lawyers and other criminal justice practitioners, scholars and researchers, policymakers and legislators, as well as those most directly affected by the consequences of conviction.  


November 19, 2014
State Advocacy Update: 2014 Midterm Analysis and More

2014 Midterm Analysis

Helpful Campaign Strategies

Reducing Prison Population

Other News


November 17, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: Incorporating Racial Equity into Criminal Justice Reform

There are few areas of American society where racial disparities are as profound and as troubling as in the criminal justice system. Our newest report, Incorporating Racial Equity into Criminal Justice Reform, provides an overview of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and a framework for developing and implementing remedies for these disparities.


November 14, 2014 (The Daily Journal)
Support grows to end excessive punishment

The success of California’s Proposition 47 — the ballot initiative that reduces penalties for drug possession and certain property crimes — may mark a new day for criminal justice reform. With a 58 percent victory margin, voters rejected some of the excesses of the “tough on crime” era. Prop. 47 signaled, according to the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, that voters are no longer “in the same fearful, punishing mood as when they passed three-strikes and other harsh initiatives.” But as encouraging as this reform is, California must take even bolder steps to tackle its high rate of incarceration.

Prop. 47’s key provision established higher monetary thresholds at which five property crimes become “wobblers” — offenses that prosecutors can charge as either felonies or misdemeanors. At values below $950, theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, and forging or writing bad checks will now be charged as misdemeanors for most people. In addition, possession of illegal drugs for personal use has also been reclassified to a misdemeanor.


Author: Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D.
November 7, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Hot Off the Presses: The Sentencing Project's 2014 Newsletter

Our 2014 Newsletter is out! Read it to find out what we’ve been up to in the last year, including:

  • How three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – reduced their prison populations in the range of 25% and saw their crime rates generally decline even faster than the national average
  • Updates on federal sentencing reform, including the United States Sentencing Commission’s decision to apply their reduced sentencing guidelines retroactively to 46,000 people currently serving time for drug offenses
  • How state advocates from across the country gained insight and support in strategizing for racial impact statements from The Sentencing Project during our State Advocacy Convening

…and much more!


November 5, 2014
California Voters Pass Proposition 47 Sentencing Reform

California voters have approved Proposition 47, a ballot measure that will reclassify six low-level property and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. These offenses include shoplifting, theft, and check fraud under $950, as well as personal use of most illegal drugs. State savings resulting from the measure are estimated to be at least $150 million a year and will be used to support school truancy and dropout prevention, victim services, mental health and drug abuse treatment, and other programs designed to expand alternatives to incarceration.


November 5, 2014 (The Liman Report, Yale Law School)
Leveraging the Moment: Resources for High Incarceration Communities

The coalition in support of criminal justice reform is expanding. I recently had the opportunity to present at the League of Women Voters’ national convention. In a meeting room at a Washington area hotel, older women from suburban communities in Missouri and Arizona were very concerned about the nation’s “war on drugs” and the failures of our prison system.

That afternoon underscored just how far the conversation has progressed in the past decade. Leaders from different ideological perspectives are calling for changes to the nation’s criminal justice system. Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, recently announced an effort to lower the nation’s incarceration rate by fifty percent by 2050. And earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a significant expansion of the federal clemency process in order to reduce excessive prison terms for low-level drug offenders.


Author: Nicole D. Porter
October 29, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race and Justice News

School to Prison Pipeline: Los Angeles Schools Revamp Discipline Policies

Courts: Citizenship Trumps Race in Federal Sentencing Disparities

Vivid Account of Challenges to Biased Jury Selection in North Carolina Capital Cases

Legal Analysis: Why and How the Supreme Court Should Recognize Implicit Racial Bias 


October 24, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Disenfranchisement News

Civil Rights Commission reports call for reform

California: 'Let me Vote' campaign spreads voting rights awareness

Florida: Candidate forced to withdraw due to prior felony conviction

Michigan: NAACP brings voting booths to county jails

Mississippi: Slim chance of reform during an election year

Ohio: Judge orders voting access for people jailed the weekend before an election

Wyoming: New bill to cut wait time for voting rights restoration

National: Felony disenfranchisement infographic