Tag: end mass incarceration

President Obama Set To Commute Sentences For Dozens Of Non-Violent Drug Offenders

President Obama Speaks at Georgia Tech

Following his plan to rectify the “war on drugs” that jailed thousands and destroyed communities, President Obama is expected to commute the sentences of dozens of non-violent drug offenders this summer, the New York Times reports.

The president, who has long discussed the effort to correct the tough and unfair sentencing that disproportionately affects minority men, will issue orders to free a number of federal prisoners; a move that will “commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century,” the Times writes.

In a rare Washington D.C. twist, sentencing reform seems to be a bipartisan issue, garnering support from Democrats, Republicans, and those in between.

Via the Times:

In the next weeks, the total number of commutations for Mr. Obama’s presidency may surpass 80, but more than 30,000 federal inmates have come forward in response to his administration’s call for clemency applications. A cumbersome review process has advanced only a small fraction of them. And just a small fraction of those have reached the president’s desk for a signature.

[…]

Overhauling the criminal justice system has become a bipartisan venture. Like Mr. Obama, Republicans running for his job are calling for systemic changes. Lawmakers from both parties are collaborating on legislation. And the United States Sentencing Commission has revised guidelines for drug offenders, so far retroactively reducing sentences for more than 9,500 inmates, nearly three-quarters of them black or Hispanic.

The drive to recalibrate the system has brought together groups from across the political spectrum. The Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy organization with close ties to the White House and Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, has teamed up with Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the conservative brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, who finance Republican candidates, to press for reducing prison populations and overhauling sentencing.

According to PBS Newshour, inmates should have spent at least 10 years incarcerated and received what could be considered an unfair sentence based on current sentencing laws to be considered for commutations.

So far, President Obama has granted 33 commutations in the fiscal year 2015.

article by Christina Coleman via newsone.com

John Legend Pens All-Too Important Essay: “New York Failed Kalief”

John Legend

John Legend hasn’t been keeping quiet on police brutality or mass incarceration. Now, he is taking it a step further with his essay for Vulture speaking out on the suicide of Kalief Browder, the young man who spent three years on Rikers Island without a conviction.

Legend is justifiably upset about Browder’s treatment while incarcerated, and he recalls meeting him in 2013 after seeing him in a television interview.

From Vulture:

New York failed Kalief. The list of things that went wrong in his case begins with his first encounter with the NYPD, whose practice of targeting black teens is well documented. The idea that being accused of stealing a backpack would lead to his arrest and detention would be absurd if it weren’t actually tragic. He should not have been tried as an adult, or had prosecutors, defenders, and judges so overwhelmed with cases that he waited three years for trial, violating his constitutional right to swift justice. He should not have been held in an adult jail where he would spend 700 to 800 days of those three years in solitary confinement. He should not have spent one day being abused by guards or the others incarcerated there.

This Martin Luther King Day, Governor Cuomo publicly released findings from a task force he began last year to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the patterns and practices at Rikers violate the human rights of adolescent males in jail. Rikers shouldn’t even have a youth unit. The RNDC, where Kalief spent three years, where 18-year-old Kenan Davis hanged himself this week, should not exist. Right now legislators in Albany are considering legislation that would end the automatic prosecution of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, and remove youths like Kalief from Rikers and other jails throughout the state. Kalief died because our system is broken, and lawmakers can act now to stop tragedies like this in the future.

Read Legend’s entire essay here.

article by Ariel Cherie via theurbandaily.com

John Legend Launches “Free America” Campaign To End Mass Incarceration

John Legend at Atlanta's Chastain Park Amphitheatre in 2014. (Photo by Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP)
John Legend at Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheatre in 2014. (Photo by Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP)

Grammy and Academy Award-winning singer John Legend has launched a campaign to end mass incarceration by announcing today the multiyear initiative, FREE AMERICA.  He will visit and perform at a correctional facility on Thursday in Austin, Texas, where he also will be part of a press conference with state legislators to discuss Texas’ criminal justice system.

“We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country,” Legend said in an interview. “It’s destroying families, it’s destroying communities and we’re the most incarcerated country in the world, and when you look deeper and look at the reasons we got to this place, we as a society made some choices politically and legislatively, culturally to deal with poverty, deal with mental illness in a certain way and that way usually involves using incarceration.”

Legend, 36, will also visit a California state prison and co-host a criminal justice event with Politico in Washington, D.C., later this month. The campaign will include help from other artists — to be announced — and organizations committed to ending mass incarceration.

“I’m just trying to create some more awareness to this issue and trying to make some real change legislatively,” he said. “And we’re not the only ones. There are senators that are looking at this, like Rand Paul and Cory Booker, there are other nonprofits that are looking at this, and I just wanted to add my voice to that.”

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