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Sentencing policies brought about by the "war on drugs" resulted in a dramatic growth in incarceration for drug offenses. At the Federal level, prisoners incarcerated on a drug charge comprise half of the prison population, while the number of drug offenders in state prisons has increased thirteen-fold since 1980. Most of these people are not high-level actors in the drug trade, and most have no prior criminal record for a violent offense.

The Sentencing Project works actively to reform the federal mandatory penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses to make them more equitable and fair. To become involved visit our crack reform page.

Number of People in Prisons and Jails for Drug Offenses, 1980 and 2011

Drug Policy News
July 1, 2015
State Advocacy Update: Alabama and Texas Address Lifetime Federal Public Benefits Ban

Alabama:

Texas:

Efforts to reinstate federal ban in other states: Pennsylvana, Missouri, and Maine

Other news: Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Virginia

In recent months there has been legislative reform to modify the federal food stamp ban in states like Alabama and Texas. In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) imposed a lifetime denial of federal benefits for cash and food assistance to people convicted in state or federal courts of felony drug offenses; the ban is imposed for no other offenses but drug crimes. States can opt out of the federal ban or modify it by authorizing legislative reform. States that have not authorized a legislative remedy include Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. During 2014, Missouri modified the federal ban and California opted out of the full ban.


June 1, 2015
State Advocacy Update: Grassroots Strategy to Address Mass Incarceration

Reinforcing broad support to address mass incarceration has been a priority for several state advocacy organizations. This year, grassroots organizations in California, Maryland, and North Carolina organized lobby days in support of policy goals to scale back harsh criminal justice practices.


May 25, 2015
America’s Disappeared Black Men

"Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. These are the names of black men from around the United States who have disappeared from this world in the past year due to tragic encounters with police. But they are only the most visible examples of men who have gone missing as a result of deeply flawed criminal justice system in the United States," writes Jeremy Haile, Federal Advocacy Counsel at The Sentencing Project, in teleSUR.


May 24, 2015 (The New York Times)
How to Lock Up Fewer People

"When Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ted Cruz, Eric H. Holder Jr., Jeb Bush, George Soros, Marco Rubio and Charles G. Koch all agree that we must end mass incarceration, it is clear that times have changed," write The Sentencing Project's Executive Director Marc Mauer and Georgetown Law professor David Cole. "Not long ago, most politicians believed the only tenable stance on crime was to be tougher than the next guy."


May 9, 2015 (Des Moines Register)
Mandatory sentences don’t benefit public safety

"Sen. Chuck Grassley writes that mandatory drug sentences are necessary to protect communities in Iowa ['Response to bishops,' May 2]. But this claim is not supported by evidence," explains Jeremy Haile, Federal Advocacy Counsel at The Sentencing Project in a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register.