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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.


June 2, 2014 (The Boston Globe)
Convicted as teen, inmate shouldn’t have had to wait decades to be heard

A letter to the editor from The Sentencing Project's State Advocacy Associate, Joshua Rovner:

IN THE May 26 editorial “After 2 decades, teen offender deserves a chance for parole,” the Globe highlighted the case of Joseph Donovan, still imprisoned for his role in a 1992 crime. Donovan was just 17 when he senselessly punched Yngve Raustein; a 15-year old accomplice then stabbed and killed Raustein, who had fallen to the ground.

Under a pair of misguided laws, Massachusetts had no choice but to sentence Donovan to a mandatory term of life without parole. Though 17, he was sentenced as if he were an adult. Though he did not kill Raustein, he was convicted of felony murder.


May 29, 2014 (The Hill)
Last Stand for the Drug Warriors

In January, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bipartisan bill that would take several incremental steps toward reforming mandatory minimum penalties for non-violent drug offenses. Authored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and in the House by Reps. Raul Labrador (R-Utah) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the bill is aimed at ensuring that federal criminal justice resources are not wasted with excessive sentences for individuals convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

In conjunction with that effort, Jeremy Haile, federal advocacy counsel for The Sentencing Project, writes in The Hill that the contention that “the legislation would benefit some of the most serious and dangerous offenders in the federal system” is “highly misleading.” He argues instead that “federal drug laws have led to skyrocketing prison populations without making communities safer.”


May 28, 2014 (MSNBC)
Is the ‘tough on crime’ movement on its way out?

"It was a dinner invitation from Newt Gingrich a few years ago that first led me to think change might be coming on criminal justice policy. The former Republican House Speaker had arranged the event with a small group of people concerned with America’s world record prison population. Along with Gingrich, Grover Norquist and other leading lights of the Republican right, we had an intriguing conversation about the runaway 'war on drugs,' excessive federal prosecutions, and the failures of our prison system.

As someone who has labored on these issues for several decades I had gotten used to fighting losing battles: trying to convince policymakers that the 'one size fits all' approach of mandatory sentencing produces vast injustices; that the drug war focus on law enforcement too often ignores the need to help people access treatment; and that the dramatically high rates of incarceration for African Americans are a tragedy for our society.

But over the past decade the landscape has shifted. Four years ago, Congress passed legislation reducing the racially disparate sentencing differential between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a significant expansion of the clemency process in order to reduce excessive prison terms for low-level drug offenders. And in two far-reaching decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has found aspects of life without parole sentences for juveniles to be unconstitutional."


Author: Marc Mauer