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The Sentencing Project 2018 Annual Report

“Criminal justice reform is a challenging undertaking, but if we take the long view we can recognize that success is possible, even if incremental at times. This was the story of reform in 2018, a year in which we saw significant gains in sentencing policy and public understanding of mass incarceration.Most prominent, of course, was passage of the Fair Sentencing Act in Congress. The legislation, a mix of sentencing reform provisions and expansion of programming in federal prisons, represented the culmination of years of advocacy. Yet its passage was far from assured at several key points in the process.The original version of the bill passed by the House contained no elements of sentencing reform. We and our allies worked closely with Senate leadership, particularly Sen. Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Durbin (D-IL), to hold firm to only pass a bill with sentencing provisions, which ultimately were included in the package.The final bill is best described as one of mixed success. No, it won’t end mass incarceration, though a single bill only applying to the federal system could never accomplish that anyway. And the bill falls far short of the indisputable need to repeal mandatory sentencing laws and to rein in excessive prison terms. But the legislation will make a difference in sentencing and time served in prison for thousands of individuals in federal prison, and produce an overall decline in the system’s population. In political terms, the bipartisan support for the legislation is also a welcome indication of how far we’ve come from the days of bipartisan support for “tough on crime” sentencing policies..”

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