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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
April 20, 2015 (The Mark News)
Minimizing The Maximum: Why Prison Sentences Should Be Capped At 20 Years

A commentary in The Mark News by Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, makes the case for capping federal prison sentences at 20-years, barring exception circumstances.


April 17, 2015
State Advocacy Update: Connecticut Governor calls for "Second Chance Society"

Connecticut: Governor Leads Effort for "Second Chance Society"

Kentucky: Addressing Sentence Lengths for Persons with Prior Felony Convictions

Massachusetts: Advocates Support Felony Reclassification and Reinvesting Savings

Other News: Alabama, Maryland, Missouri, and more...


April 15, 2015 (Salon)
America’s criminal justice disgrace: How Apple’s ban of former felons reveals the long road to real reform

The Sentencing Project's Director of Advocacy Nicole Porter recently spoke with Salon about employment for people with criminal records, criminal justice issues as civil rights issues, and what is necessary to take to tackle mass incarceration in the United States.


April 11, 2015 (Newsweek)
State Prison Populations Show Upswings, Declines

Since 1999, 34 states have seen “at least a modest decline” in their prison populations, but 16 have recorded upswings, according to new data released by The Sentencing Project that demonstrate incarceration rates vary dramatically between states.

New Jersey had the biggest drop in inmates since 1999, at 29 percent, while New York experienced a 27 percent decline and California's since 2006 was 22 percent. Overall, nine states posted double-digit drops.


March 31, 2015 (Los Angeles Times)
Obama commutes prison sentences of 22 drug offenders

In a single stroke, President Obama on Tuesday doubled the number of sentence commutations he has granted to federal prisoners since taking office, clearing the way for the release of 22 drug offenders.

The move was part of an administration effort to reduce disparities in drug sentencing and scale back mandatory minimum prison sentences.