Many executives have the power to shorten the sentences of large numbers of incarcerated individuals or to release them altogether.
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We suggest following the unique strategies of President Gerald Ford, who granted clemency to tens of thousands of men for evading the Vietnam War. This report provides state leaders with eight strategies to shorten overly long prison sentences. All that is left is the political will. The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative was founded in to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization and spark advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. The organization is known for its visual breakdown of mass incarceration in the U. His work and research is forever informed by the decades he spent in Texas prisons and his years as a community organizer in Texas, working with those most affected by incarceration.
This report would not have been possible without the expertise and input of many individuals. I am particularly indebted to Margaret Love for her work on commutations and pardons, Patricia Garin for providing leads on academic articles, to John Cooper of Safe and Just Michigan for keeping me updated about criminal justice reforms in that state, to Families Against Mandatory Minimums for their excellent work on compassionate release, and to Edward E.
Rhine of the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, both for his scholarship there and for taking time to provide clarity about parole in all 50 states. Special thanks to Peter Wagner for offering much-needed clarity and shaping, to Wanda Bertram for editing, to Wendy Sawyer for visionary graphics, and to the rest of my colleagues at the Prison Policy Initiative.
Only 18 of those individuals were granted discretionary parole, as those individuals committed their crimes before Anyone convicted of crimes committed after in Illinois must serve a certain percentage of their sentence and is released under mandatory supervision, not discretionary parole. The same situation exists in Florida. The other 5, individuals were released under mandatory supervision. All of these individuals were subject to parole supervision and revocation, regardless of how they were released. This difference in statutory structure around how sentences are expressed is not relevant to our conceptual explanation of how felony sentences are served, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Hollywood often portrays parole hearings as a meeting between a supplicant incarcerated person and stone-faced parole board members. Reality often is less cinematic and less accountable. Incarcerated people can be eligible for parole many times, be denied and finally granted release, without ever having spoken to a voting member of the board.
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Ruhland, E. Rhine, J. South Dakota Codified Laws 1. New Hampshire Admin. Code Rules, Par. PB Rule Edward E. He is currently a Lecturer in the Sociology Dept.
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Joan Petersilia is the Faculty Co-Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, a past recipient of the Stockholm Prize in Criminology, a former president of the American Society of Criminology and is a world-renowned expert on prison reentry issues. Kevin R. He was also appointed by the American Law Institute to be Reporter for the first-ever revision of the Model Penal Code, focusing on sentencing and corrections provisions within the Code.
Rhine, Joan Petersilia, and Kevin R. In Reinventing American Criminal Justice. Michael Tonry and Daniel S. Edited by Michael Tonry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez fired two parole board members who complained that other members were not truly considering individuals serving life sentences who, by statute, were eligible for parole. Terrell, Steve. June 26, Much more common is parole officials being fired after someone commits a crime.
See Jonathan Saltzman, Jan.
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By contrast, Texas allows for 10 years to lapse between parole reviews for some individuals. See Texas Gov. Code, Title 4, Chapter Of these four states, only New Jersey and Michigan allow individuals in the parole process to view the evidence the Board uses to deny them parole, although that procedure seems to be fairly common in other states.
In New Jersey, only individuals who are prohibited from parole entirely are ineligible for presumptive parole. S Michigan passed legislation that expressly prohibits denial of parole for subjective reasons. The influential American Law Institute originally published the Model Penal Code in as a guide to federal and state statute-writing bodies, and the revisions includes a Second Look provision.
Margaret Love, Dec. Reitz, Cecelia Klingele. In Maryland, the Revisory Power of the Court limits judges to reviewing sentences within the first five years. Frank Newport, Sept. TX Gov. Code S Prior to the mid to late s, individuals sentenced to life in the United States rarely served more than 15 to 20 years.
To provide just two examples, according to The Sentencing Project, judges polled in by the Michigan State Bar believed that lifers eligible for parole would serve 20 years or less, and in New Mexico, only 10 years was necessary before eligibility for parole was reached until Mauer, R. King, and M. And in Northern Europe, individuals rarely serve lengthy sentences, even for murder. A California State University study comparing time served by individuals sentenced to life in three Northern European countries found that in Denmark, the most common determinate sentences given for murder were between 12 to 16 years, and in Sweden, sentences for murder averaged between 10 to 18 years.
Doris Schartmueller, Of course, the ex post facto clause of the constitution prohibits making a sentence more punitive, but nothing in the constitution prohibits, and common decency should require, that sentences that would be less harsh if imposed today be made less harsh if they are still being served today. The only positive news is that the U. Sentencing Commission - an agency of the federal judiciary - recommended in that federal judges allow a portion of those sentenced under the old law to petition for resentencing, which resulted in approximately 6, individuals being released from federal prison in Texas in To our knowledge, there is not an accessible definitive count of the number of people ultimately released by Gideon.
In , according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 7, persons incarcerated in state prisons in Florida. Atkins v. Virginia , Those 83 individuals were scattered across the Death Rows of 20 states, with North Carolina reducing the sentences of 16 condemned individuals, Texas 12, and Pennsylvania See Death Penalty Information Center.
At the time, there were 71 individuals on death row in 12 states, 29 of them in Texas, 13 in Alabama, with no other state holding more than five. Miller v Alabama made automatic life without parole for juvenile offenders unconstitutional, and this decision was made retroactive in Montgomery v. Louisiana , making 2, individuals eligible for parole or review.
Many correctional systems are, in fact, aware that supervision as it currently practiced often does more harm than good. The Pew Charitable Trusts brought much-need attention to the rarely scrutinized, barely understood role that community supervision plays in mass incarceration in its Sept.
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If revocations are triggered by less serious forms of misconduct, for example, or if the standard of proof at revocation hearings is low, parolees are on average more likely to be returned to prison. McVey, E. Rhine, and C. Reynolds, Robina Institute of Crim. Schiraldi and J. Arzu, Columbia University Justice Lab.
In Georgia, for example, between and , at least 14 incarcerated individuals died while awaiting review and another 16 died awaiting release after their petitions were approved. Gina Barton, April 18, But states rarely use them. Some states allow only family and attorneys to recommend that someone be released on these grounds; others allow prison personnel to do so. Mary Price, May In a unique positive development, new guidelines for federal prisons issued by the U. Williams, A.