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Reply to "More Blacks Going to Prison in 17 Key Election States"

Sentencing Law and Policy

Changes in sentencing law and policy, not increases in crime rates, explain most of the six-fold increase in the national prison population since the early 1970s. These changes have also shifted the power of sentencing from judges to the prosecutor, imposed determinate sentencing schemes which prevent judges from evaluating the circumstances of the offense and offender, and increased the use of legislatively-imposed "one size fits all" mandatory and determinate sentences that allow for little consideration of individual characteristics. Recent court decisions continue the tradition of giving legislatures vast authority to authorize or require even the most severe sentences without permitting the presiding judge to use discretion in order to reach a sentence fitting to the particulars of the case.

The Sentencing Project analyzes law, policy and practice with the goal of promoting reforms in sentencing procedure, more moderate lengths of sentence, increased use of alternatives to punishment, meaningful redress to victims and the community, and restoration of judicial discretion.
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