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Data Reveals Violence Among Youth Under 18 Has Not Spiked in the Pandemic

June 14, 2022

Throughout the pandemic, a flurry of alarming news coverage and inflammatory rhetoric from politicians have appeared in national and local media highlighting serious violent crimes by youth. The issue has generated considerable political attention in Congress and across the country, and it has fueled calls to scale back youth justice reforms enacted in many states and to derail proposed reforms in others.This report explains why these calls for a return to get-tough youth justice policies are misguided, based on a false narrative regarding recent trends in youth crime and what actually works to prevent delinquency and promote youth success.Our nation must always take vigilant action steps to increase public safety, starting with common sense gun regulations to limit access to deadly weapons. But the nation must be clear-eyed about the nature and dimensions of youth violence and cannot allow media-fueled concerns over crime or election-year political posturing to distract attention from efforts to mobilize urgently needed social, emotional, and mental health support for young people in their schools and communities.The Sentencing Project's review of the available data about youth violence during the pandemic finds scarce evidence of a youth-led crime wave. Rather, most of the data suggest that youth violence has been flat or declining.

The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons, 2021

October 12, 2021

This report details our observations of staggering disparities among Black and Latinx people imprisoned in the United States given their overall representation in the general population. The latest available data regarding people sentenced to state prison reveal that Black Americans are imprisoned at a rate that is roughly five times the rate of white Americans. During the present era of criminal justice reform, not enough emphasis has been focused on ending racial and ethnic disparities systemwide. 

Report of The Sentencing Project to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance

March 19, 2018

For decades, the United States of America has employed mass incarceration as a convenient answer to inconvenient questions. These policies have produced dramatic rates of incarceration, with a particularly disproportionate impact on communities of color. In addition to the range of harmful consequences to people of color, mass incarceration has been a failed policy in regard to public safety outcomes. Research has documented that the effect of imprisonment on crime rates has been modest, and that at current levels the scale of incarceration is well past the point of diminishing returns for public safety. Mass incarceration has diverted resources from prevention and treatment initiatives that could have produced far more effective approaches to crime reduction.In recent years, the U.S. government has addressed some of the glaring racial inequalities that permeate every aspect of its criminal justice system, but these efforts have been relatively modest in scope. The government continues to both foster and perpetuate inequalities in clear violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as other international agreements.The proliferation of racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system has a profound impact on the lives of people of color. Behind each statistic lies the face of a young black man or woman whose potential has been cut short by a harsh prison sentence mandated by draconian drug laws. Behind each percentage point lies the face of a Latina child who will only know her parents through hurried, awkward visits in a prison visitation room. Behind each dataset lies a community of color bereft of hope because its young people have been locked away.It is the human face—a face of color—of the racial injustice of the United States criminal justice system that is the most compelling reason for reform. It is time for the United States to take affirmative steps to eliminate the racial disparities in its criminal justice system.

Trends in U.S. Corrections: U.S. State and Federal Prison Population, 1925-2015

October 17, 2017

This fact sheet, updated June 2017, provides a compilation of key developments in the criminal justice system over the past several decades.

Native Disparities in Youth Incarceration

October 1, 2017

Native youth were three times as likely to be incarcerated as white youth, according to data collected in October 2015 by the Department of Justice and recently released. The disparity has increased since 2001 when Native youth were roughly two-and-a-half times as likely to be detained or committed to juvenile facilities.

Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration

September 1, 2017

Despite long-term declines in youth incarceration, the disparity at which black and white youth are held in juvenile facilities has grown. As of 2015, African American youth were five times as likely as white youth to be detained or committed to youth facilities.

The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons

June 1, 2016

African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states. This report documents the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics in each state, identifies three contributors to racial and ethnic disparities in imprisonment, and provides recommendations for reform.

Expanding Public Safety in the Era of Black Lives Matter

May 13, 2016

The narrative of "Black Lives Matter" offers a new framework for policymakers, activists, practitioners, and other stakeholders to think about a public safety strategy that is not solely defined by arrests and admissions to prison. This essay provides an overview of evidence-based approaches for public safety interventions that exist outside of law enforcement interactions.

Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer

May 10, 2016

A striking 5.85 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offenses. Felony disenfranchisement rates vary by state, as states institute a wide range of disenfranchisement policies.The 12 most extreme states restrict voting rights even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole; such individuals in those states make up approximately 45 percent of the entire disenfranchised population. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, do not restrict the voting rights of anyone with a felony conviction, including those in prison.Persons currently in prison or jail represent a minority of the total disenfranchised population. In fact, 75 percent of disenfranchised voters live in their communities, either under probation or parole supervision or having completed their sentence. An estimated 2.6 million people are disenfranchised in states that restrict voting rights even after completion of sentence.

Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System

February 1, 2015

This briefing paper identifies four key features of the justice system that contribute to its disparate racial impact, and presents recent best practices for targeting these inequities drawn from adult and juvenile justice systems around the country. In many cases, these practices have produced demonstrable results.

Incorporating Racial Equity into Criminal Justice Reform

October 1, 2014

There are few areas of American society where racial disparities are as profound and as troubling as in the criminal justice system. In fact, racial perceptions of crime and race-influenced policy development have been intimately tied to the development of mass incarceration. Yet there is growing evidence that the high rate of minority imprisonment is excessive for public safety goals and damaging for family and community structures in high-incarceration neighborhoods.This briefing paper provides an overview of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and a framework for developing and implementing remedies for these disparities. We first describe the rationale for incorporating racial equity as a goal of an overall criminal justice reform strategy. We then document trends in racial disparity and assess the various causal factors that have produced these outcomes. Next, we identify a selection of best practices for addressing disparities, along with recommendations for implementation. Finally, we provide a guide for establishing rigorous metrics for success

Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies

September 3, 2014

To guide and give greater momentum to recent calls for reform, this report examines a key driving force of criminal justice outcomes: racial perceptions of crime. A complex set of factors contributes to the severity and selectivity of punishment in the United States, including public concern about crime and racial differences in crime rates. This report synthesizes two decades of research establishing that skewed racial perceptions of crime – particularly, white Americans' strong associations of crime with racial minorities – have bolstered harsh and biased criminal justice policies.