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July 18, 2014 (The New York Times)
New Rule Permits Early Release for Thousands of Drug Offenders

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of prisoners serving time for federal drug offenses will be eligible to seek early release beginning next year.

The United States Sentencing Commission, which voted in April to reduce the penalties for most drug crimes, voted unanimously on Friday to make that change retroactive. It will apply to nearly 50,000 federal inmates who are serving time under the old rules.


July 10, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Shadow Report of The Sentencing Project to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Along with 11 allied civil rights and justice reform organizations, The Sentencing Project submitted a shadow report regarding racial disparities in the justice system to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Our report documents continuing disparities in incarceration, the imposition of juvenile life without parole, the death penalty, and felony disenfranchisement. The review of United States’ compliance with the CERD convention will take place in August.


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.