Sentencing Reform

Sentencing and Corrections Reform

We are working for a fairer, more just, and more effective, state and federal sentencing and corrections system with one concept in mind: Let the punishment fit the crime committed.

The Coalition partners are working to:

  • Expand alternatives to incarceration.
  • Balance the need to reduce overreliance on incarceration with ensuring community safety.
  • Hold the criminal justice system accountable for its results in preventing crime and reducing recidivism, seeking justice for victims, lowering crime rates, reducing re-offending risks, and conserving taxpayer dollars.
  • Support policies that ensure that the punishment fits the crime through sentences that are fair and proportional to the underlying crime and facts.
  • Reduce the length of existing mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Expand “safety valves” that give judges the ability to inform sentencing decisions with specific factual circumstances.
  • Create or expand a continuum of sentencing options and alternatives to avoid one-size-fits all sentencing practices, including strong community supervision and programming options.
  • Commit to a comprehensive strategy to contain and curtail long-term incarceration costs by appropriately transitioning offenders back into society in such a fashion that reduces recidivism rates, promotes public safety, protects families, and strengthens communities.
  • Provide educational programs, job training opportunities, and mental health care when necessary to people in prison, and increase their chances of reentering society with social relationships intact and better prepared to make a positive transition back into their communities.
  • Reduce prison overcrowding, which jeopardizes safety for those incarcerated, correctional officers, and other staff.
  • Reduce the use of solitary confinement in jails and prison facilities, particularly with regard to juvenile detention.
  • Support greater transparency and better data collection on prison programming.
  • Support comprehensive legislation to substantially reduce the federal prison population through a combination of significant sentencing and corrections reforms.

More Facts

As of year-end 2012, 45.5 percent of offenders in state prisons were sentenced for a property, drug, or public order offense (as the most serious offense charged). The rest were sentenced for a violent offense.

Currently, about 2.3 million American adults are incarcerated in prisons nationwide. That means more than 1 in 100 adults is now behind bars in America, by far the highest rate of any nation.

For many low‐level offenders, prison terms may increase rather than reduce recidivism. Meanwhile, for a substantial number of offenders, there is little or no evidence that keeping them incarcerated for longer periods of time prevents additional crime.

Mandatory minimums are proscribed and fixed sentences that judges must impose on offenders regardless of mitigating factors.

  • At the apex of the use of mandatory minimums, every state had some form of mandatory minimum sentences on the books. By 2000, 36 states still had mandatory minimum sentencing laws on the books.
  • Since 2000, however, 29 states have enacted laws that either revise mandatory minimums or increase judicial discretion, or both.

The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population; since 1980, the federal prison population has increased by almost tenfold, and the state prison population has quadrupled.

  • This costs American taxpayers $80 billion each year for jails and prisons to keep this bloated and inefficient system afloat.