Is Your State a Leader in Sentencing Reform?
Date:  02-27-2015

If not, there are several recommendations to suggest to legislators to make your state join the 30 states that already are
The Sentencing Project issued a new report that reveals some states are far ahead of progressive reform actions than others. The actions include alternatives to incarceration, removing barriers to successful community reentry and eliminating life without parole sentences for juveniles.

Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project views the report, The State of Sentencing 2014, as a guide that reform-minded legislators can use to craft meaning changes in policies in their own states.

The report looks at the policy changes 30 states and the District of Columbia made in 2014 regarding the adult and juvenile justice systems.

Highlights include:

  • Sentencing: At least 16 states and the District of Columbia authorized legislation to address sentencing policy, including statutory penalties that limit lengths of confinement. Notably, voters in California approved reclassifying certain low-level offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, eliminating prison as a sentencing option. Lawmakers in Mississippi scaled back the state’s truth-in-sentencing provision from 85% to 50% for violent offenses.

  • Probation and parole: Three states – Mississippi, New York, and Oklahoma – adopted changes to probation and parole policies that expand sentencing alternatives.

  • Collateral consequences: At least 14 states and the District of Columbia enacted legislation to scale back collateral consequences associated with a criminal conviction, including employment bans and federal felony drug bans on public assistance.

  • Juvenile justice: At least 15 states adopted reforms, including eliminating juvenile life without parole as a sentencing option in West Virginia and Hawaii. Kentucky and Hawaii also enacted comprehensive juvenile justice reform measures to reduce the use of out-of-home placement for juveniles and prioritize therapeutic interventions as a public safety strategy.