The Sentencing Project has over 30 years of experience in the field of fair and equitable sentencing practices. They work under a series of important and often overlapping key ideas: fair sentencing, incarceration, felony disenfranchisement, racial disparity, drug policy, juvenile justice, women, and collateral consequences.
The Sentencing Project explains its work as “include[ing] the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns, and strategic advocacy for policy reform.”
They bring awareness regarding the disenfranchisement of Americans with felony convictions. Priorities include families struggling without food aid because of drug offences, the effects of sentencing practices on children, and racial inequities that are pervasive through our criminal justice system.
One area of their work addresses how voting laws apply to people with convictions.
Maryland changed their voting laws from a lifetime ban on voting to allowing ex-offenders to vote upon the completion of their sentences. This allowed people like David Waller to become a registered voter, at the same time as his 18 year old son. “Those of us that are ex-offenders can contribute positively to the social order,” said Waller. “As an ex-offender, to be stripped from voting means we lose the right to citizenship.”
Theresa McIntyre Smith was a victim of manipulation and lies of an associate who was a drug dealer. Due to her seemingly minor involvement with him, she was sentenced to a 10 year mandatory prison term even though she had no knowledge of the extent of the crime. “In fact, [the drug dealer’s] wife, who testified on behalf of Smith, said she herself didn’t even know he was a drug dealer. ‘I told them, if his wife doesn’t know, why should I know?’ Smith said of her testimony….”
Without the awareness generating, research driven, relentless public testimony of The Sentencing Project, the issues highlighted in these people’s stories may not be addressed with the same commitment that lies in the researchers and advocates at The Sentencing Project.
Youtube video: "The Sentencing Project: A 30-Year March Toward Justice" September 16, 2016
Newsweek: Wescott, Lucy, "Justice in America: 1 in 5 Black Prisoners is Serving a Life Sentence" Newsweek, May 3, 2017