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September 25, 2014 (The Daily Journal)
How California Stands Apart on Lifer Parole Policies

“Gerald Denson” was convicted of first-degree murder in Los Angeles County in 1983. He was sentenced to 25 years to life plus two years for using a firearm. Four years ago, the California parole board found him suitable for parole based on his record in prison. But Denson remains behind bars, 31 years after his conviction, because California is among a handful of states that allow the governor to reverse the decisions of a governor-appointed parole board. If Denson were serving his sentence in any of 45 other states, he would be a free man.

A quarter of California’s 135,000 prisoners are “lifers” sentenced to serve up to life with the possibility of parole. The national rate is only 7 percent. California has not always been an outlier: In 1990, lifers accounted for 8 percent of the state’s prison population. The state has achieved this distinction because of its sentencing and parole policies, not its crime rates. 


Author: Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D.
September 22, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race and Justice News

Policing: Protests in Ferguson, MO spur local and federal initiatives 

Reforms: Georgia's incarceration rate for African Americans drops 20% in five years 

Ethnic Disparities: California Latinos face cumulative disadvantage in the criminal justice system 

Probation: Probation is revoked at higher rates for African Americans 


September 3, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies

This report examines how racial perceptions of crime are a key cause of the severity of punishment in the United States. Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies, authored by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., research analyst at The Sentencing Project, synthesizes two decades of research revealing that white Americans’ strong associations of crime with blacks and Latinos are related to their support for punitive policies that disproportionately impact people of color.

Coming on the heels of the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, the report demonstrates that the consequences of white Americans’ strong associations of crime with blacks and Latinos extend far beyond policing.


August 18, 2014 (The New York Times)
Room for Debate: Charged as Adults, Children Are Abandoned When They Could Be Saved

Marc Mauer weighs in on charging children as adults in The New York Times' "Room for Debate" series.


Author: Marc Mauer
August 2, 2014 (Al Jazeera America)
Holder: Data-driven prison sentencing ‘unfair’ to minorities

Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday expressed concern about the fairness of judges who rely on big data to sentence criminal defendants, saying the use of such “risk assessments” in several states could exacerbate racial disparities among the prison population.

Holder, who made the comments during a Philadelphia speech to criminal defense lawyers, said the use of such data results in unfair treatment of minorities.

“Basing a sentence on something other than the conduct of the person involved and the person’s record, you’re looking, for instance, at factors like the person’s education level, what neighborhood the person comes from,” Holder said in an interview with PBS on Thursday. “They’re using this as a predictor of how likely this person as an individual is going to be a recidivist. I’m not at all certain that I’m comfortable with that … I think the result is fundamental unfairness.”

Research has shown that racial minorities who don’t have regular jobs or steady families are likely to be charged with more severe crimes, leading to longer prison sentences, according to Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a research analyst for The Sentencing Project, an organization dedicated to sentencing reform in U.S. prisons.