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July 7, 2014
The Sentencing Project Urges Retroactivity for Reduced Federal Drug Penalties

The Sentencing Project is urging the U.S. Sentencing Commission to apply reduced penalties for federal drug offenses retroactively.  

In April, the Commission unanimously voted to lower penalties across drug types, resulting in a sentence reduction of about 11 months for those individuals who would benefit.  The Commission will now consider whether to apply those reductions retroactively to the tens of thousands of people serving prison terms under penalties that are widely seen as excessive.  The Department of Justice has urged the Commission to limit the scope of cases in which retroactivity would apply. 


June 10, 2014 (The National Association for Public Defense)
"Tough" Sentences Don't Deter Crime

How frequently have we heard a judge say to a defendant on the day of sentencing, “I’m sending you to prison because I want to send a message that we won’t tolerate this kind of behavior?” The “message” is supposed to be a deterrent to potential offenders to cause them to refrain from engaging in crime out of concern that they’ll end up in prison. Aside from the fact that only in the unusual case does anyone outside the courtroom even hear the message, there’s little evidence that harsh sentences produce any significant deterrent effects. Criminologists have known this for hundreds of years.


Author: Marc Mauer
June 10, 2014 (The Washington Times)
Holder eyes shorter prison terms for drug offenders

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday endorsed a plan to shorten prison sentences for certain inmates as part of his pursuit of administrative reforms he says will make the system more fair to people of color and reduce taxpayer costs.

The proposal would make eligible for reduced sentences about 20,000 of nearly 215,000 inmates in federal prisons, the Justice Department said. Individuals with non-violent, low-level drug convictions and without "deep criminal ties" would qualify for retroactive sentences.


June 3, 2014 (Huffington Post)
I Am My Brother's Keeper

An op-ed by Reverend Al Sharpton:

I could have easily been a statistic. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, it was easy -- a little too easy -- to get into trouble. Surrounded by poor schools, lack of resources, high unemployment rates, poverty, gangs and more, I watched as many of my peers fell victim to a vicious cycle of diminished opportunities and imprisonment. If it weren't for the mentorship and guidance from people like my mother, James Brown and others, I wouldn't have been able to make something of my life.


June 2, 2014
California's Fair Sentencing Act to Equalize Penalties Advances

The Sentencing Project submitted a letter to California's Assembly Public Safety Committee in support of Senate Bill 1010. The proposed legislation has been approved by the state's Senate and would equalize penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. Sentences for intent-to-sell crack convictions range from three to five years in current state law, compared to two to four years for powder. Crack convictions in low-income communities and communities of color are more common because crack is cheaper than powder. SB 1010 would eliminate the difference in sentencing, probation and asset forfeiture rules for low level powder and crack cocaine offenses.