Prison Reform

Hundreds win release after reform of sentencing rules

More than 500 federal inmates won release from prison last week, due to a change in federal sentencing policy which brought sentences for crack cocaine closer to the penalties for powder cocaine. (Photo: Susan Cardwell hugs her brother Darryl Flood as he arrives at a bus station in Woodbridge, Va., after his release.) The disparity in sentences for crack versus powder had long been criticized as racially discriminatory because it disproportionately affected black defendants. The Fair Sentencing Act passed by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Obama reduced the disparity for future cases, and this summer the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets federal sentencing policy, decided to apply the act to inmates already serving time. The releases are the result of months of work by public defender offices around the country, which reviewed hundreds of files of potentially affected inmates.Gil Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio reports...

Earned release supporters speak out

As the Wisconsin Assembly considers a measure (already passed by the Senate) to end the state's earned release prison program, its supporters are speaking out.

Ronna Swift, who taught high school classes in the Oshkosh prison and volunteers with WNPJ member group Fox Valley Peace Coalition, told Wisconsin Public Radio why earned release should continue.

Illinois Abolishes Death Penalty

In a victory for justice that has been 20 years in the making, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law SB 3539, a bill that adds Illinois to the ranks of 15 other states that have abolished the death penalty. Quinn's predecessor, Governor George Ryan, placed all executions on hold after a series of high-profile cases in which death-row inmates were found to be innocent or the victims of police wrongdoing. Explaining his decision to commute the sentences of 15 death-row prisoners to life in prison without any chance of release, Quinn told the Chicago Sun Times that "once the decision was made to sign the law abolishing the death penalty, it should be abolished for all." The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has set up an online form here to allow you to send a message of thanks to Governor Quinn and the bill's sponsors.

Save Wisconsin's Earned Release Program

For WNPJ's 20th anniversary, a grassroots lobby day was held on February 23, 2011.  One of the focus issues was the opposition of Arizona-like Anti-Immigration Policies.  Below is information that was created for the lobby day and to help with on-going advocacy.

Issue Backgrounder: Earned Release Program

Illinois could become 16th no-death-penalty state

A bill to end use of the death penalty landed on the desk of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (left) on January 11, after a 32-25 Senate vote. Governor Quinn has not yet signed the bill, and Amnesty International is urging citizens of all states to email the Governor to urge him to make Illinois one of the growing number of states which ban the death penalty (New Mexico became the most recent state to abolish the death penalty in 2009.)

Wisconsin Books to Prisoners brings books to LGBT prisoners nationwide

In 2007 Wisconsin Books To Prisoners began a LGBT Project thanks to a starter grant from the New Harvest Foundation of Madison.  This project sends new and used books to LGBT prisoners nationwide, addressing an often marginalized and mistreated segment of the national prison system.  New Harvest has twice renewed its support during which the Project has grown from seven prisoners who had requested LGBT materials in mid 2007 to over 860 LGBT prisoners who have received at least one package of books today.  WBTP is grateful to NHF and also to OutReach LGBT Community Center in Madison for their support and continued donations.

WNPJ Blog: In Wisconsin, go to jail, lose your reading privileges

Bill Christofferson on WNPJ Weblog:  Time was when politicians who wanted to show their anti-crime bona fides would rail about how prisoners were watching color television -- or any television at all.  In Wisconsin these days they don't even want prisoners to read books.

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