Racial Disparity News
December 3, 2013 (Womensenews.org)
Faith-Based Housing Helps Women Leave Prison
Missy Denard prayed for six years before she rented the first home for New Beginnings in Abilene, Texas, for women who have nowhere to go.
That was in 2011. Since then the two-bedroom house with an attached apartment has been housing up to six women and Denard has acquired another house and an apartment building to rent to approximately 65 more women, all with children.
The female population in prisons in the United States continues to grow at an alarming rate. From 2000 through 2009, the number of women incarcerated in state or federal prisons rose by 21.6 percent, compared to a 15.6 percent increase for men. A total of 205,000 women were in U.S. prisons or jail in 2010, with the families and communities being torn apart as a result, according to a report released earlier this year by The Sentencing Project.
As the need grows, some members of religious communities are creating new ways to respond to women leaving prison, including teaching them that Christ loves and forgives them.
December 2, 2013 (The Daily Review)
Alternative sentencing could be win-win situation
The United States is the world's largest jailer, with more than 2.2 million people behind bars.
There is no doubt that is the correct location for many of them but, as noted by The Sentencing Project, the 500 percent increase in the prison population over the last 40 years is due more to changes in sentencing laws and policies than to crime rates, which generally have fallen over the same period.
In recent years the climbing cost to the public of mass incarceration has spurred an examination of the system.
Pennsylvania has been a leader, canceling several new prisons that had been planned and turning to alternative sentencing and specialized courts, and public safety has not suffered.
Two new studies demonstrate how further progress can be achieved.
December 2, 2013 (The New York Times)
Sunday Dialogue: Using the Power to Pardon
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, writes: “Professor Levinson issues an eloquent call to President Obama to use his pardon power. We can only speculate about why he’s been reluctant to do so, but for me, political calculation is the only plausible explanation. If so, this seems misguided.
“We’re well past the “tough on crime” days of the 1980s and ’90s, when Democrats and Republicans tried to outdo one another in promoting harsh crime policies. There’s now broad bipartisan support for treatment for drug offenders, re-entry services for people returning home from prison, and even measures to scale back the severity of mandatory sentencing laws. Witness the positive response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech this summer decrying the fact that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long.” Hardly a word of dissent, clearly an indication that the political climate on these issues has shifted in a more compassionate direction.
December 2, 2013 (C-Span)
Reforming Prison Sentencing
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, talked about the changing political climate for criminal justice reform on C-Span and why he believes the expanding growth and cost of the U.S. prison system has contributed to an increased desire for reform. He also spoke about the findings of his organization on the rapid growth of life sentencing and the impact of the federal drug ban on welfare families. Watch here.
November 26, 2013 (Opposingviews.com)
Virginia’s Sentencing Laws Gave Six Life Terms to 15-Year-Old For Armed Robbery
Travion Blount of Norfolk, Va., is serving what some are calling the harshest sentence yet for a juvenile who did not commit murder: six life sentences.
Blount, now 23, was 15 at the time that he and two 18-year-olds committed armed robbery at a house party. One of the 18-year-olds struck someone with the butt of the gun, but no shots were fired, according to the ACLU Center for Justice.
The two 18-year-olds pleaded guilty and accepted prison sentences of 10 and 13 years. Blount decided to go to trial instead, turning down the prosecution’s offer of 18 years in prison.
At the trial, Blount was found guilty of 24 firearm counts and sentenced to 118 years in prison without the possibility of parole. His only chance of leaving prison is through geriatric release at age 60, an unlikely possibility.
Blount’s case has raised doubts about the effectiveness of Virginia’s harsh juvenile sentencing laws. In the Virginian-Pilot’s coverage of the case, the newspaper reported that Virginia is one of 11 states that impose life sentences without parole on juveniles for nonhomicide convictions. Virginia abolished parole in 1995.