Thursday, October 8, 2015

Right Now, One Out of 100 Americans Is Behind Bars

Right Now, One Out of 100 Americans Is Behind Bars

This practice is a crisis fueled by mandatory minimum sentences, which force judges to hand down lengthy sentences they often disagree with, causing our prison population to explode. 

Behind Bars
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America now leads the world in mass incarceration, and it costs us billions of dollars each year. 

Sharanda Jones
Behind all these numbers are real people like Sharanda Jones, who is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole as a first-time nonviolent drug offender. She’s now been in prison for over 15 years. Her daughter was only 8 when she was sentenced. Unless she is granted clemency or Congress takes action, she will die behind bars. Sadly, Sharanda’s story is not the exception. 

Thankfully, there is hope for Sharanda and thousands like her. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have just introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would reform mandatory minimum sentencing, reduce harsh punishments, and increase support for rehabilitation programs. This echoes a comprehensive reform push in the U.S. House of Representatives called The SAFE Justice Act. This is an incredible, historic opportunity. 

Our current system is so broken that many people, including Sharanda, are in prison under laws that have since been changed.

Today, she would likely not receive the same sentence because, in 2010, Congress reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. But the change didn’t affect those who had already been convicted under that law – they merely remained behind bars. That’s not fair. 

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and SAFE Justice Act have strong support from Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Together, these are the most comprehensive, historic federal criminal justice reform bills we’ve ever seen. Congress is finally coming together to help people like Sharanda and make our criminal justice system more efficient and just. Now is the time for you to speak up and together, we can pass major criminal justice reform legislation by the end of 2015. 

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