Sentencing Project

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The Sentencing Project
Purpose"The Sentencing Project is dedicated to changing the way Americans think about crime and punishment."
Headquarters Washington, District of Columbia
Executive Director
Marc Mauer

The Sentencing Project is a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy center working for decarceration or to reduce the use of incarceration in the United States and to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. For three decades the organization, with a small staff and funding from foundations and individuals, has regularly produced nonpartisan reports and research used by state and federal policymakers, administrators and journalists as they consider crime and punishment.


The Sentencing Project grew out of pilot programs established by lawyer Malcolm C. Young in the early 1980s. In 1981, Young became director of a project of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) designed to establish defense-based sentencing advocacy programs. In 1986, Young incorporated The Sentencing Project as an independent organization to continue NLADA's program of training and development work. In the late 1980s, The Sentencing Project became engaged in research and public education on a broad range of criminal justice policy issues, and is primarily known for its work in these areas today.


The Sentencing Project works with other organizations and public officials to influence criminal justice policies at the federal, state and local level. The Sentencing Project was part of a national coalition supporting the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act in the 114th Congress. [1] The organization's executive director testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the legislation. [2]

In 2010, The Sentencing Project contributed to the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act which reduced the disparities in sentences associated with convictions for possessing or trafficking in crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. [3] Representatives of the organization have often testified before Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and other government and scholarly meetings.

Senate Minority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL), a leader of the bipartisan congressional reform effort, said of The Sentencing Project: "They bring to our attention those specific cases that we can use to dramatize the need to get this done. I can't say enough for their research work." [4]


As it celebrated its 30th anniversary during 2016, The Sentencing Project was active in the national debate about racial and ethnic disparities in arrests, sentencing and incarceration, and has monitored and reported on the denial of voting rights to individuals with felony convictions. It consistently criticizes what it considers the ineffectiveness and excessive public expense associated with mass incarceration and extended prison terms.

In 2016 the organization produced, for the first time since 2012, a state-by-state breakout on the disenfranchisement of citizens convicted of felonies: Six Million Lost Voters. It documented 6.1 million potential voters, including more than 4 million who had long since completed their sentences, unable to participate because of state laws disenfranchising them. Florida, a perennial swing state, led the country with 1.5 million people convicted of felonies who could not vote.

In recent years The Sentencing Project has published reports and research on mandatory minimum sentences and their impact on judicial discretion; the increased reliance in the courts upon life sentences, often without opportunities for parole; prison closures and repurposing; the impact of racial perceptions in criminal justice policy; the war on drugs and its collateral consequences; juvenile justice issues; women in prison; the children of prisoners and the long-term social impact of mass incarceration policies. [5] Most are available at


The executive director of The Sentencing Project since 2005 is Marc Mauer, who has authored a number of books, articles and studies about the criminal justice system. University of Pittsburgh Law School Professor David Harris called Mauer "the go-to guy for any major media organization or any legislative body that wants the truth on what's been happening with our prisons and our jails.... His testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2015... should be required reading for every public official in this country." [6]

The Sentencing Project is governed by a 10-member board of lawyers, academics, and practitioners, chaired by American University law professor Cynthia Jones. [7]

See also


  1. ^ "Coalition for Public Safety".
  2. ^ Testimony of Marc Mauer Executive Director The Sentencing Project Before the Senate Judiciary Committee On the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, October 19, 2015
  4. ^ The Sentencing Project: A 30-Year March Toward Justice
  5. ^ To Build a Better Criminal Justice System: 25 Experts Envision the Next 25 Years of Reform
  6. ^ How bail traps the poor (episode 27)
  7. ^ Cynthia Jones

External links