The Next Step: Ending Excessive Punishment
for Violent Crimes
As President Trump and Congress celebrate their criminal justice reform achievement, passage of the First Step Act, a new report from The Sentencing Project points to limits on excessive punishments for violent offenses as the critical next step in ending mass incarceration.
The Next Step: Ending Excessive Punishment for Violent Crimes, by Senior Research Analyst Nazgol Ghandnoosh, highlights 15 reforms in 19 states implemented over the past two decades that have produced more effective, fiscally sound, and humane policies for people convicted of violent crimes. These reforms include: shortening excessive prison terms for violent convictions, scaling back collateral consequences, narrowing overly broad definitions of violence, ending long term solitary confinement, and rejecting the death penalty.
Recent reforms in Mississippi and California exemplify this next step in criminal justice reform. Mississippi legislators reformed the state’s truth-in-sentencing requirement for violent crimes in 2014, reducing the proportion of a sentence that individuals with certain violent convictions have to serve before becoming eligible for parole from 85% to 50%. In 2018, California expanded specialized parole hearings that account for immature brain development to young adults under age 26.
Nationwide criminal justice reforms have reduced the number of people imprisoned for drug crimes by 22% between 2007 and 2015. But they have yet to meaningfully reduce excessive penalties for violent crimes. Nearly half of the U.S. prison population is now serving time for a violent offense, including assault and robbery. Although the violent crime rate has plummeted to half of its early-1990s level, the number of people imprisoned for a violent offense grew until 2009, and has since declined by just 3%.
We hope you will help us spread the word about this new report on social media. You can use the sample social media posts below:
#TheNextStep in ending mass incarceration must focus on reducing excessive penalties for violent crimes. Learn more in the @SentencingProj’s new report: sent.pr/2FJoYjt
It is possible to undo excessive penalties for violent crimes while also promoting public safety. 19 states are already taking #TheNextStep in ending mass incarceration. sent.pr/2FJoYjt @SentencingProj
While the First Step Act and other criminal justice reforms have limited the number of people imprisoned for drug crimes, they have yet to meaningfully reduce excessive penalties for violent crimes. The Sentencing Project’s new report highlights 15 reforms over the past two decades that have scaled back penalties for violent crimes while also promoting public safety. This is #TheNextStep in ending mass incarceration. sent.pr/2FJoYjt
The Sentencing Project
1705 DeSales Street NW 8th Floor | Washington, District of Columbia 20036
202-628-0871 | staff@