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Archived News

July 28, 2009: Broken U.S. Police Culture and Lack of Police Temperament Explain the Infamous Gates/Crowley Encounter

Dr. Christopher C. Cooper’s piece argues that “the way has been paved, for the first time in U.S. history, Americans to address the problem of a U.S. police culture that holds that arrest and harm should come to a citizen who dares question the authority of a police officer.”


July 26, 2009: Obama, Gates and the American Black Man


Professor Glenn Loury’s New York Times Op-Ed about Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama, Professor Henry Louis Gates, and Race in America.


June 11, 2009: Smarter punishment needed



By Paul Butler, Center on Race, Crime, and Justice Advisory Board Co-Chair

Mass incarceration has not only made us less safe, it has dramatically changed the way that people think about crime and punishment. Young men expect that at some point they are going to do some time and, statistically, they are correct. The deterrent effect of the criminal law has disappeared and instead has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. From a law-and-order perspective, when citizens begin to think of getting locked up as normal, disaster looms. Welcome to the future -- unless we act quickly to reverse course.


Click Here for info on Paul Butler’s recent book, Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice

July 4, 2009: Tepid Reception for Racial Impacts Proposal

When Oregon voters jumped on the "get tough on crime" bandwagon in the 1990s by approving Measure 11, they might not have fully understood where it was headed.
Measure 11, which removes the sentencing leeway a judge can give a defendant and imposes mandatory minimum prison terms for certain crimes, has caused Oregon's prison population to swell.
The Department of Corrections estimated that inmates in Oregon prisons will grow by 41 percent because of the measure. This has been particularly hard for Oregon's minority population. African Americans make up nearly 10 percent of the state's prison population, even though they are about 2 percent of the population. Hispanics make up over 12 percent of inmates, while making up only about 10 percent of the general population.

June 6, 2009: Rising Above I.Q.

Nicholas Kristof, in an Op-Ed for the NY Times, debunks the myth of genetics in explaining racial differences in measurements of IQ.  The lesson, he argues, is “that the most decisive weapons in the war on poverty aren’t transfer payments but education, education, education.”

April 20, 2009: The Dehumanizing and Brutal Naure of American Prison - A Personal Story

On 26 January, 2009, in a federal courthouse in Georgia, Luis Barrios, [Professor at John Jay College and a member of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice Advisory Board] along with four others, received sentences of 60 days in a federal penitentiary while a sixth was sentenced to six months of house arrest. The six were found guilty of carrying their protest against the School of the Americas - renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001 - onto the Fort Benning military base. They were among thousands who gathered on 22 and 23 November, 2008 outside the gates of Fort Benning to demand the school's closure.

Click Here to read about the treatment of Professor Barrios in prison, written by his friend and colleague Professor David Brotherton, Chair of the Department of Sociology at John Jay College, and member of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice Advisory Board.


April 10, 2009:

     For the first time in 25 years, since the inception of the "war on drugs," the number of African Americans incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses has declined substantially, according to a study released today by The Sentencing Project. It finds a 21.6% drop in the number of blacks incarcerated for a drug offense, a decline of 31,000 people during the period 1999-2005.

      The study, The Changing Racial Dynamics of the War on Drugs, also documents a corresponding rise in the number of whites in state prison for a drug offense, an increase of 42.6% during this time frame, or more than 21,000 people. The number of Latinos incarcerated for state drug offenses was virtually unchanged.

     The study notes that the black declines in incarceration represent "the end result of 50 state law enforcement and sentencing systems" which need to be examined individually. But overall, the decline in blacks incarcerated for a drug offense follows upon declining arrest and conviction rates for blacks as well. The study suggests much of the disparity resulting from the drug war has been a function of police targeting of open-air drug markets. As crack use and sales have declined, or moved indoors in some cases, law enforcement activity may have been reduced correspondingly.

     Because of the rising number of whites in prison for a drug offense, the overall number of persons serving state prison time for a drug offense remained at a record 250,000 during the study period. The white increase may be related in part to more aggressive enforcement of methamphetamine laws, according to the study. While methamphetamine is only used at significant levels in a relative handful of states, data from states such as Iowa and Minnesota show a substantial influx of these cases during this time period.

     The analysis by The Sentencing Project also documented a sharp contrast between state and federal prison populations. While the number of persons in state prisons for a drug offense rose by less than 1% during the study period, the increase in federal prisons was more than 32%.  These latter changes are attributed to ongoing aggressive enforcement of drug laws, including application of harsh mandatory sentencing policies. Despite declines in the use of crack cocaine, federal prosecution and incarceration levels for crack offenses remain high and have a stark racially disparate impact.

     In reviewing the study's findings, Mauer noted that despite the new trend, African Americans are still imprisoned at more than six times the rate of whites for all offenses. Moreover, high incarceration rates for low-level drug offenses remain a function of the largely punitive approach to drug abuse that has proven expensive and ineffective.

     Today's study is based on an analysis of government data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, FBI, and the Department of Health and Human Services.  Click here to read The Sentencing Project's report, The Changing Racial Dynamics of the War on Drugs.


3/30/09: Bi-partisan Bill Creates Commission to Review American Criminal Justice System With an Eye Toward Reform - A Letter From Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project and Advisory Board Member of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice


Dear Friend:

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), took a bold step toward a more fair and effective criminal justice system.  He introduced a bi-partisan bill with Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) that would create a blue-ribbon commission to conduct an 18-month review of the nation's criminal justice system and offer concrete recommendations for reform. 

"America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace," said Senator Webb. "With five percent of the world's population, our country houses twenty-five percent of the world's prison population. Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980. And four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals."

We agree with Senator Webb's assessment of the criminal justice system.  Since his election in 2006, The Sentencing Project has been working with Senator Webb to provide information and analysis on sentencing and drug policy, along with recommendations for reform.
We commend Senator Webb for his leadership on this issue, and look forward to working with his office, and other leaders in the House and Senate to advance sentencing reform, examine racial disparity and improve the juvenile justice system

You can help The Sentencing Project continue to advocate for a more fair and effective criminal justice system by making a contribution to our work today.  
Every day, support from individuals like you is making a difference in The Sentencing Project's work to change the way Americans think about crime and punishment.
Thank you.
Marc Mauer
Executive Director

2/7/2009: Low-Risk Frisks: Thousands of Minorities Are Stopped, Few Busted

The vast majority of citizens stopped by police walk away without being charged - or are hit with something minor.  Only 6% of the 744,087 stopped and questioned in the 18-month period that ended in June wound up arrested, the data show.

Click Here for full story.

1/7/2009: After NYCLU Lawsuit, City Council Says NYPD Must Report on Race of those Shot by Police

The New York City Council today passed a law requiring the NYPD to submit an annual report with detailed information about police shootings, including the race of shooting victims. The new law follows a lawsuit the New York Civil Liberties Union filed in August 2008 challenging the NYPD’s refusal to disclose reports recording the race of New Yorkers shot by the police.

Click Here for full story.

9/262008:New Report: State Disenfranchisement Reform Restores Right to More than 760,000

The Sentencing Project today released a report, Expanding the Vote: State Felony Disenfranchisement Reform, 1997- 2008 , that documents a reform movement over the past eleven years that has resulted in more than 760,000 citizens having regained their right to vote. The report found that since 1997, 19 states have amended felony disenfranchisement policies in an effort to reduce their restrictiveness and expand voter eligibility. The report's release coincides with the introduction of new legislation in Congress to secure federal voting rights for nonincarcerated citizens.

The report finds:
Nine states either repealed or amended lifetime disenfranchisement laws. Two states expanded voting rights to persons under community supervision (probation and parole). Five states eased the restoration process for persons seeking to have their right to vote restored after completing sentence. Three states improved data and information sharing. The report documents the rates of disenfranchisement and the racially disparate impact of felony disenfranchisement policy in the 19 states that have enacted reforms. It also highlights the profound personal impact that this policy has had on those who have regained their voting rights, or continue to be disenfranchised.

Recent state reforms include:
Maryland repealed its post-sentence voting ban in 2007, restoring the right to vote to 52,000 residents. Florida eased the complexity of its restoration process for persons who have completed a sentence for a non-violent offense. Governors in Kentucky and Virginia expressed support for voting rights for persons who completed sentence by easing the restoration process and expediting restoration applications, respectively. North Carolina and Louisiana passed notification bills mandating that the state notify individuals of the law regarding voting rights and the process of registration. Despite these reforms, an estimated 5 million people will continue to be ineligible to vote in November's Presidential election, including nearly 4 million who reside in the 35 states that still prohibit some combination of persons on probation, parole, and/or people who have completed their sentence from voting. In response to this fact, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) plans to introduce the Democracy Restoration Act and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) plans to introduce the Civic Participation and Rehabilitation Act this week to restore federal voting rights to all citizens released from prison and living in the community.

Click Here for full story.

5/19/2008 - Four Philly Cops Fired After Beating of 3 African American Males
On May 5, a television news helicopter captured footage of more than a dozen predominantly white police officers pulling three African- American men out of a car after a pursuit. The video footage shows
the officers kicking, punching and striking the suspects with batons while the men lie restrained on the ground. Two of the men were struck at least 20 times each.
Click here for full story and video footage.


5/12/2008 - Shelia Jones: 911 Operator Comments Spark Outrage
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When you call 911 you hope you're talking to someone who cares about what happens to you. But an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation uncovered a shocking 911 emergency where the exact opposite happened.
Click here for full story.


Landmark Settlement Reached With Maryland State Police In "Driving While Black" Case
4/2/2008 - Click here for full story.

Charges Dismissed Against Reporter Who Was Victim of NYPD Racial Profiling as Figures Show Hundreds of Thousands of Innocent Black New Yorkers Were Stopped-and-Frisked in 2007
02/13/2008 - NEW YORK - A Bronx Criminal Court judge has dismissed charges against a black New York Post reporter who was the victim of racial profiling by NYPD officers. The dismissal came on the same day that the NYPD quietly released figures showing that police made nearly half a million stops in 2007, most of which were of black and Latino New Yorkers.
Click here for full story.

Where is the Justice for Sean Bell?
A day after three New York police detectives were acquitted on all counts in the case of Sean Bell -- an unarmed man killed in a hail of 50 police gunshots -- his fiancee told supporters that the justice system let her down.

"On April 25, 2008, they killed Sean all over again," Nicole Paultre Bell told supporters at a rally organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton. "That's what it felt like to us," she said Saturday. "Yesterday, they -- the justice system -- let me down. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I'm still praying for justice, because it's not over. It's far from over."
Full Article...

Injustice in Louisana: The Case of the Jena Six
The Jena Six refers to a group of six black teenagers who have been charged with the beating of a white teenager at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, United States, on December 4, 2006. The six black students were initially charged with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit second degree murder. The beating followed a number of racially-charged incidents in the town, which began when three white students hung nooses from a tree at Jena High school the day after a black student asked if he and his friends could sit under the tree.

Mychal Bell, the only member of the "Jena Six" to be tried so far, has had his convictions set aside, one by the trial judge and the other by the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal. Both convictions were overturned on the grounds that the defendant should have been tried as a juvenile, not as an adult, because he was sixteen when the incident occurred. Bell was incarcerated for almost 10 months, before being released on September 27, 2007, after bail was posted on his behalf. The District Attorney has indicated he does not plan to appeal further, meaning that Bell will be tried as a juvenile.
For More Information...

Torture in West Virginia: Megan Williams
While our country mourns those lost during the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, a young woman lays in the hospital severely traumatized after being tortured and held captive for 6 days in a West Virginia home. This young woman went missing from her home for days, but there was no national coverage of her disappearance. Why it is some cases get more coverage than others?

The victim is a 20 year old black woman named Megan Williams. Her captors are no strangers to the Logan County criminal justice system. Frankie Brewster, her son Bobbie R. Brewster, Danny J. Combs, Karen Burton, her daughter Alisha Burton and George A. Messer have all been arrested in connection to the brutality towards Megan Williams. The FBI has been consulted as to whether or not to handle this as a hate crime being that the accused are all white.

According to an anonymous tip about a young woman being held against her will lead police to 49 year old Frankie Brewster's trailer. There police found Megan Williams with black eyes, stab wounds and part of her hair pulled out. Ms. Williams' tells police her captors forced her to eat dog and rat feces. She was made to drink from a toilet.
For More Information...





Summary of the New York City Bar Association forum titled "The New York Police Department's Stop and Frisk Policies: Are they Effective? Fair? Appropriate?" (March 9,2010)

Click here to View



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Student Education for Advocacy

Race, Crime and Justice: A Fresh Look at Old Questions
(2008 Orison S. Marden Lecture delivered to The New York City Bar Association by President Jeremy Travis)

The Role of Critical Race Theory in Understanding Race, Crime, and Justice Issues
(Inaugural Colloquium delivered by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, University of Pittsburgh, School of Law)

And Justice for All? Assessing the Changing Climate for Criminal Justice Reform
2008 Annual Colloquium by Advisory Board Member Marc Mauer, Director,
The Sentencing Project

Congratulations to our 2009 Power of One Racial Justice Awards Recipients:

The late Honorable Robert E. Francis, Superior Court of New Jersey

Celeste Fitzgerald, Program Director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Leonardo Blair, freelance journalist, formerly of the New York Post

Click Here to go to our Announcements page to read more about the Awards and recipients

Click Here to see photos from the Awards Luncheon