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The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

Posted by on August 31, 2016 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (1)

President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 111 people incarcerated in federal prison on Tuesday, almost all for drug offenses. This brings his total number of clemencies granted to 673 people. Many of those who received commutations today were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.

President Obama has been pushed to do more to release those serving time in prison under harsh drug laws.

“The President is doing the right thing, but we hope to see many more commutations,” said Michael Collins, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. ” We also need Congress to Act. Paul Ryan has promised a vote on the sentencing reform bill in September, and Mitch McConnell must do the same.”

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal “safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand prison programming and early release, among other things.


- The Daily Chronic

Notable new comments and commitments on criminal justice reform from GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan

Posted by on June 30, 2016 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a candid speech about the "State of American Politics" on Wednesday, during which he admitted that he too hasn't always lived up to what he believes is a high-standard of political discourse.

A member of the audience asked Ryan after the speech if he had been persuaded differently on any policy position he has held and was willing to admit he was wrong.

Ryan — who earlier repeated an apology he had made in 2014 for a past statement about America's supposed "makers and takers" when discussing poverty in the country — said he had been wrong about criminal justice. "One of the things that I learned is that there are a lot of people who've been in prison that committed crimes that were not violent crimes," he said. "Once they have that mark on their record, their future is really bleak."

He said that, when he came to Congress in the late 1990s, he was a staunch supporter of tough crime laws. He admitted that both his own party and Democrats overcompensated at the time. The policies, he said, "end up ruining their lives and hurting their communities where we could've have alternative means of incarceration, instead of basically destroying someone's life. I've become a late convert."


- Sentencing Law & Policy

Criminal Justice Reform: There's Bipartisan Hope

Posted by on June 1, 2016 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

In a tumultuous election year filled with negativity and vitriol, there’s little hope on Capitol Hill for passage of any meaningful legislation before November, and few pieces reflecting true bipartisan agreement. One exception, and the biggest hope for significant legislative achievement this year, is criminal justice reform.


For more than a year, there has been growing momentum on both sides of the aisle, inside and outside of Congress, for restructuring federal sentencing laws. The interlocking goals of would-be reformers are to reduce the prison population both for reasons of fairness and fiscal prudence, while also helping non-violent offenders re-enter society on a productive trajectory.


- Real Clear Politics

Crack Cocaine Minimum Sentencing Disparities: Where Is The True Resolution?

Posted by on May 22, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Since the U.S. Congress passed legislation in 2010 repealing a mandatory minimum sentence and reforming the infamous 100-to-one ratio between powder cocaine and crack cocaine (i.e. the Fair Sentencing Act or FSA), fairer sentences have been imposed in relation to such crimes. Prior to the enactment of the FSA, it took 100 times as much powder cocaine as crack cocaine to receive the same five-, 10-, or 20-year mandatory minimum prison term. The FSA changed this so-called “100-to-one” disparity to a disparity of 18-to-one. The law also abolished a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.  

While the FSA addressed many of the issues that were plaguing low income and minority offenders, who were overwhelming more affected by the tough sentencing in place before it was enacted, it did not retroactively address all of the prisoners who were negatively impacted by such laws! This has left thousands of federal crack cocaine offenders in prison today serving mandatory minimum terms that Congress, the President, and the country have now repudiated as unfair and racially discriminatory. Additionally, the FSA’s 18-to-one ratio does not reflect the fact that crack and powder cocaine are the same drug in different forms, and that crack cocaine crimes are still punished more harshly than powder cocaine offenses. Read more...

- Families Against Mandatory Minimums 

Chicago's Cook County May Have Wrongfully Convicted Hundreds Of Felons

Posted by on May 17, 2016 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

In recent years, Chicago's Cook County has become known as a hub of wrongful or ill-gotten convictions. In 2010, former police commander Jon Burge, who'd been accused of torturing hundreds of suspects, was convicted of lying to investigators. Northwestern University's Innocence Project counts approximately 50 death row exonerations in Illinois, which emptied its death row in 2003. The National Registry of Exonerations says there've been 103 convictions overturned since the late '80s.


Now, the New Yorker says there could yet be hundreds of more cases that may deserve further scrutiny. Read more...

- Business Insider

1994 Crime Bill Ravaged Poor Communities

Posted by on April 14, 2016 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

For some critics, the 1994 crime bill has come to epitomize the late 20th century policies that sent incarceration to record levels and ravaged poor communities, taking a particularly devastating toll on African-Americans that political leaders are only now working to reverse. (Read more...)

- New York Times

Obama Commutes 61 Drug Sentences

Posted by on March 31, 2016 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

President Obama recently commuted the sentences of 61 inmates as part of his ongoing effort to give relief to prisoners who were harshly sentenced in the nation’s war on drugs. More than one-third of the inmates were serving life sentences. Obama has granted clemency to 248 federal inmates, including the most recent 61 commutations. White House officials said that Obama will continue granting clemency to inmates who meet certain criteria set out by the Justice Department throughout his last year. The president has vowed to change how the criminal justice system treats nonviolent drug offenders.

- Washington Post

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Clemency for Johnny Jackson

Posted by on March 26, 2016 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Support our Clemency Program through The Visionaries Initiative - let's address some of this gross over sentencing for drug offenders and focus our efforts on reversing recidivism! Please join us in proudly supporting the national clemency efforts for Johnny Jackson, who was harshly over-sentenced for drug crimes in 2000. Given 100 years to serve, we are promoting this petition to commute this extremely harsh sentence! Sign his petition today at!


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