The Sentencing Project News
December 5, 2013 (The Sentencing Project)
Race & Justice News
Research: Prosecutors Primary Cause of Persistent, But Stable, Post-Booker Racial Disparity in Federal Sentencing
Foreign-Born Adjudicated Youth Desist at Higher Rates Than Children of Immigrants and the Native-Born
Law Enforcement: Marijuana Arrests and Their Racial Disparity Increased Nationwide Between 2001-2010
School Discipline: School-to-Prison Pipeline Intact in North Carolina and New York, Curbed in South Florida and Los Angeles
International: Non-Whites in UK More Likely to be Incarcerated and to Serve Longer Sentences Than Whites
December 5, 2013 (The Washington Times)
America's for-profit prisons: Greed over justice
Today, in the U.S., there are privately owned for-profit prisons that contractually require states to maintain a certain number of prisoners. If prison populations fall below the agreed upon quota, there are fines the states have to pay to these prison corporations.
There is something terribly wrong with America.
You can even invest in for-profit prison corporations, or the partnership corrections industry, as they prefer to be called.
One such company is Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA for short, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CXW. Started in 1983, the Corrections Corporation of America was the first for-profit prison company.
The more prisoners a facility holds, the more profitable the corporation is. That is good for stockholders, but not for the rest of the citizens of America
December 5, 2013 (The Daily Free Press)
Zero-tolerance means zero productivity
An editorial states: “People send their children to schools to learn, not to be subject to rough societal punishments. When a person trusts a school with the well being of his or her child, it is understood that educators and administrators in middle and high schools will act in the best interest of the student. Zero-tolerance policies are counterintuitive to the development of a functioning member of society, and they should be eradicated before more young people are prematurely introduced to the incarceration system.
“Any zero-tolerance policy against non-violent crime breeds criminals. When a student is in possession of an illegal substance or spray paints a wall on a campus, administrators should take the responsibility to discipline. Guidance counselors and school security should be held more accountable for discovering and assessing a child’s actions and administering constructive discipline rather than punishing the student to the fullest extent.
“Disruptive students should not be contained to jail cells, juvenile detention or simple detention in a cafeteria. If a social problem warrants possible incarceration, parents and school officials should be more than capable of avoiding such harsh consequences. How is society going to advance if young people are left to fend for their rights in a courtroom?
December 4, 2013 (DesMoinesRegister.com)
Dying woman’s release is first of its kind in Iowa
Iowa’s parole board in the past has granted compassionate releases to inmates suffering from illnesses, board Chairman Jason Carlstrom said Tuesday.
However, Kristina Fetters’ case —she was convicted of first-degree murder as a juvenile now scheduled for release after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling — is the first of its kind in Iowa. Nationwide, such releases remain rare 1½ years after the ruling, an expert said.
The court made life sentences for juveniles illegal in its ruling in Miller v. Alabama in June 2012. In August, the Iowa Supreme Court in State v. Ragland determined that the Miller ruling applies “retroactively” to give young offenders currently serving life sentences a chance at parole.
Iowa currently has 38 young offenders serving life sentences.
Many state courts have not been as progressive as Iowa’s in determining that the Miller ruling applies retroactively, said Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst with The Sentencing Project. The Washington, D.C., group researches and advocates for reforms to sentencing laws.
“There’s been a lot of resistance across the country to complying with the Miller ruling,” she said. “It’s terrible that it takes terminal cancer to get anyone’s attention when it should really just take the Miller ruling.”
December 3, 2013 (The Sentencing Project)
National: Have Felony Disenfranchisement and Prison Gerrymandering Diluted Our Democracy?
Support for Disenfranchisement Reform Growing
"A Blatant Stain on America's Hard-Won Universal Suffrage"
Two New Books on Felony Disenfranchisement
Virginia: 6,874 Virginians Reenfranchised Under Gov. McDonnell
How the Next Governor Will Impact Reform Efforts
Kentucky: Opposition to Voting Rights Restoration Bill in State Senate
December 3, 2013 (Womensenews.org)
Faith-Based Housing Helps Women Leave Prison
Missy Denard prayed for six years before she rented the first home for New Beginnings in Abilene, Texas, for women who have nowhere to go.
That was in 2011. Since then the two-bedroom house with an attached apartment has been housing up to six women and Denard has acquired another house and an apartment building to rent to approximately 65 more women, all with children.
The female population in prisons in the United States continues to grow at an alarming rate. From 2000 through 2009, the number of women incarcerated in state or federal prisons rose by 21.6 percent, compared to a 15.6 percent increase for men. A total of 205,000 women were in U.S. prisons or jail in 2010, with the families and communities being torn apart as a result, according to a report released earlier this year by The Sentencing Project.
As the need grows, some members of religious communities are creating new ways to respond to women leaving prison, including teaching them that Christ loves and forgives them.
December 2, 2013 (The Daily Review)
Alternative sentencing could be win-win situation
The United States is the world's largest jailer, with more than 2.2 million people behind bars.
There is no doubt that is the correct location for many of them but, as noted by The Sentencing Project, the 500 percent increase in the prison population over the last 40 years is due more to changes in sentencing laws and policies than to crime rates, which generally have fallen over the same period.
In recent years the climbing cost to the public of mass incarceration has spurred an examination of the system.
Pennsylvania has been a leader, canceling several new prisons that had been planned and turning to alternative sentencing and specialized courts, and public safety has not suffered.
Two new studies demonstrate how further progress can be achieved.
December 2, 2013 (C-Span)
Reforming Prison Sentencing
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, talked about the changing political climate for criminal justice reform on C-Span and why he believes the expanding growth and cost of the U.S. prison system has contributed to an increased desire for reform. He also spoke about the findings of his organization on the rapid growth of life sentencing and the impact of the federal drug ban on welfare families. Watch here.
December 2, 2013 (The New York Times)
Sunday Dialogue: Using the Power to Pardon
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, writes: “Professor Levinson issues an eloquent call to President Obama to use his pardon power. We can only speculate about why he’s been reluctant to do so, but for me, political calculation is the only plausible explanation. If so, this seems misguided.
“We’re well past the “tough on crime” days of the 1980s and ’90s, when Democrats and Republicans tried to outdo one another in promoting harsh crime policies. There’s now broad bipartisan support for treatment for drug offenders, re-entry services for people returning home from prison, and even measures to scale back the severity of mandatory sentencing laws. Witness the positive response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech this summer decrying the fact that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long.” Hardly a word of dissent, clearly an indication that the political climate on these issues has shifted in a more compassionate direction.
November 26, 2013 (Opposingviews.com)
Virginia’s Sentencing Laws Gave Six Life Terms to 15-Year-Old For Armed Robbery
Travion Blount of Norfolk, Va., is serving what some are calling the harshest sentence yet for a juvenile who did not commit murder: six life sentences.
Blount, now 23, was 15 at the time that he and two 18-year-olds committed armed robbery at a house party. One of the 18-year-olds struck someone with the butt of the gun, but no shots were fired, according to the ACLU Center for Justice.
The two 18-year-olds pleaded guilty and accepted prison sentences of 10 and 13 years. Blount decided to go to trial instead, turning down the prosecution’s offer of 18 years in prison.
At the trial, Blount was found guilty of 24 firearm counts and sentenced to 118 years in prison without the possibility of parole. His only chance of leaving prison is through geriatric release at age 60, an unlikely possibility.
Blount’s case has raised doubts about the effectiveness of Virginia’s harsh juvenile sentencing laws. In the Virginian-Pilot’s coverage of the case, the newspaper reported that Virginia is one of 11 states that impose life sentences without parole on juveniles for nonhomicide convictions. Virginia abolished parole in 1995.