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January 31, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Race & Justice News

News: Racial Differences in New York City's Murder Clearance Rates

Research: Black Men Have Higher Cumulative Arrest Histories by Age 18

Black Drivers Targeted in Investigatory Traffic Stops

School Discipline: Departments of Education and Justice: "Racial Discrimination in School Discipline is a Real Problem"

Advocacy: Grading State Legislators on Racial Equity and Offering Resources to Public Defenders

Books: "This Is Not the First, nor the First Staggeringly Racialized, Prison Crisis"

January 30, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
New Reports: State Prison Closures, Sentencing Policy Reforms, 2013

The Sentencing Project released two reports that highlight states downsizing prison systems and adopting sentencing policy reforms. Our research documents a three-year trend of prison closings that produced a reduction of 35,000 beds, including six states reducing capacity by 11,000 beds in 2013.

January 3, 2014 (Medical Press)
New study to ensure justice for life prisoners across globe

In the first study of its kind, Professor Dirk Van Zyl Smit, an expert in penal law and life imprisonment at The University of Nottingham,  said he and other researchers will examine life imprisonment on an international scale.

Life imprisonment worldwide: principles and practice has been funded with a grant of £222,000 from the Leverhulme Trust to look at life sentences for prisoners across the globe to ensure justice for life prisoners.

Van Zyl Smit said: "By understanding how life sentences are applied internationally, the researchers will be able to make recommendations and advice on when and how life sentences should be applied. This will ensure that even the worst offenders are treated justly.

January 3, 2014 (Gannnettnet.com)
Ending mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles is the right thing to do

An editorial praised Massachusetts for taking “a humane step forward last week when the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled sentences of life in prison without a chance for parole for juveniles convicted of murder are unconstitutional.

“The state’s highest court’s decision goes further than the U.S. Supreme Court’s similar 2012 ruling. In its 5-4 decision last year, the Supreme Court said automatically sentencing people under age 18 to life without parole violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

“In Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court declared unconstitutional both mandatory and discretionary sentences for life without parole for juveniles. In other words, according to the SJC decision, under no circumstances will a juvenile in a state court be given a sentence of life without parole. That ruling is retroactive.

“Simply put, because the brain of a juvenile is not fully developed, either structurally or functionally, by the age of 18, a judge cannot find with confidence that a particular offender, at that point in time, is irretrievably depraved,” the court wrote. “Therefore, it follows that the judge cannot ascertain, with any reasonable degree of certainty, whether imposition of this most severe punishment is warranted.”

January 2, 2014 (Northeast Indiana Public Radio)

The Obama administration wants to fund the hiring of 1,000 new school resource officers across the country — a priority Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants to make sure congressional lawmakers fund in the 2014 federal budget.

But, according to The Facts about Dangers of Added Police in Schools from The Sentencing Project, putting law enforcement officers in schools doesn’t necessarily decrease crime, but it can feed juveniles into the criminal justice system for offenses that educators might deal with using a suspension or expulsion.  

“As well-intentioned as they may be, and as well-trained as they may be to handle crime and violence on the streets, they may not be well-trained to deal with juveniles and students with mental health issues,” said Jeremy Haile, federal advocacy counsel of The Sentencing Project.