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RACIAL DISPARITY



More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the "war on drugs," in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.

Incarceration Rate by Gender and Race

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Racial Disparity News
July 18, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
U.S. Sentencing Commission Unanimously Votes to Reduce Drug Penalties Retroactively

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to apply reduced drug penalties retroactively to 46,000 prisoners serving excessive sentences for federal drug offenses.  In April the Commission amended the federal sentencing guidelines to reduce offense levels across drug types.  Today’s vote will help to alleviate the unsustainable burden on the federal prison system by allowing federal prisoners serving time for a drug offense to seek a reduction in their current sentence -- potentially reducing average prison terms nearly two years.  Unless Congress acts to disapprove the amendment, it will go into effect November 1, 2015.


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.


June 25, 2014 (The Washington Post)
America’s stupidest criminal laws

Imagine this: two defendants, same age, smoke a joint with some friends one July evening in their respective apartments. Neither has a criminal record. Both get caught; one faces an extra two years in jail.

Why? Because he shared drugs within a certain number of feet from a school that’s been out for a month.

The so-called ‘Drug Free School Zone’ is one of many laws that create extra penalties for already illegal acts with no reasonable tie to the public’s safety or the defendant’s particular circumstances.


June 23, 2014 (The Sentencing Project)
Missouri Expands Eligibility for Food Stamps to Persons with Felony Drug Convictions

Missouri Governor Jay Neal has signed Senate Bill 680, which modifies the federal lifetime ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), for persons with felony drug convictions. Although the new law is a step in the right direction, it imposes a one-year waiting period after a conviction or release from custody.