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Attend Jamie Fellner’s talk: Sentencing Reform of Non-Violent Drug Offenses on November 4th, 6pm in the Stern Center Ballroom

Posted by: tillilied | October 27, 2015 | No Comment |

Incarceration Nation: U.S. Sentencing Policy and the “War on Drugs”

On November 4th, Jamie Fellner, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch, will speak at the College of Charleston about the necessity of reforming America’s sentencing policies for non-violent drug offenders.

Fellner has spent more than two decades using research and advocacy to press for criminal justice reform in the United States and is widely recognized as a national expert on U.S. criminal justice. Using a human rights framework, she has exposed many human rights abuses in US jails and prisons, including prolonged solitary confinement, the inadequate treatment of prisoners with mental illness, prison rape, the abusive use of force, inappropriate conditions of confinement for aging prisoners and the lack of compassionate release. She has also documented human rights abuses in pretrial practices and sentencing, including racial disparities in arrests and sentences for drug offenses, disproportionately severe sentences, unfair bail practices and coercive plea bargaining tactics by federal prosecutors.

Why You Should Care and Attend:

With 5% of the world’s population, the United States incarcerates 25% of the world’s prison population. This was not always the case. In 1980, the U.S. held a half million people behind bars (in state and federal prisons and local jails)—today, that number is 2.3 million. And, incarceration is not cheap, costing taxpayers between $60 and $65 billion each year to lock up millions of Americans.

The expanded prison population is due to numerous factors: mandatory minimum sentencing laws, an increased number of offenses that qualify for prison sentences (as opposed to community supervision), longer sentences coupled with fewer paroles and the “War on Drugs.”

Nearly 25% of those who are incarcerated in America are there for drug offenses, not violent offenses. And the burden of incarceration for drug offenses is not equally shared across the American population. Despite similar reported rates of drug use, African Americans and Hispanics are overrepresented among those who are incarcerated. These are typically the street-level dealers or repeat offenders caught in possession of drugs, not the drug kingpins and Cartel leaders.

American crime rates have declined over the last 20 years and many people assume that the expanded prison population is why we have seen what some call, “The Great American Crime Decline.” However, research suggests that incarcerating more people has only had a small impact (15-25%) on the falling crime rates such that mass incarceration is not an effective primary policy for dealing with crime.

Over the past 10 years, a movement has grown to challenge America’s policy of “mass incarceration.” Leading this effort are non-profit organizations like PEW, the VERA Institute, the Sentencing Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, the NAACP, ACLU and Human Rights Watch.

Fellner has been at the forefront of this movement and her visit to the College of Charleston comes at an important time as community groups and state leaders continue to work toward implementing criminal justice reform efforts. In her presentation, Fellner will speak about the evidence supporting sentencing reform and the political challenges of realizing criminal justice reform.

When and Where: Wednesday, November 4th at 6:00 p.m.

The College of Charleston, Stern Center Ballroom

This event is free and open to the public. If you have questions, please contact hoffmannh@cofc.edu.

under: Department Events

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