Back to top


“Since 2000, at least 29 states have taken steps to roll back mandatory sentences, with 32 bills passed in just the last five years. Most legislative activity has focused on adjusting penalties for nonviolent drug offenses through the use of one or a combination of the following reform approaches: 1) expanding judicial discretion through the creation of so-called “safety value” provisions, 2) limiting automatic sentence enhancements, and 3) repealing or revising mandatory minimum sentences. In this policy report, Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections summarizes state-level mandatory sentencing reforms since 2000, raises questions about their impact, and offers recommendations to jurisdictions considering similar efforts.” This report contains these sections: introduction; background; new approaches to mandatory sentences; the impact of reforms; research and policy considerations; and future directions.

Playbook for Change Cover

“State constitutions and statutes specify which defendants may be detained before trial … However, denial of release is not absolute. A court must make certain determinations before ordering detention … While state laws broadly provide for presumption of release, they also define who is and is not eligible for pretrial release, and under what conditions.” A chart showing pretrial release eligibility by state is available at this website. The chart shows the state and its governing statute, presumption of pretrial release (whether stated in the state constitution and/or in the statue), and when pretrial release may be denied (whether stated in the constitution and/or in the statute).

Pretrial Release Eligibility Cover

This is an excellent resource for getting up-to-date on this issue threatening the democratic process. “The way the Census Bureau counts people in prison creates significant problems for democracy and for our nation’s future. It leads to a dramatic distortion of representation at local and state levels, and creates an inaccurate picture of community populations for research and planning purposes. Some state legislative districts draw large portions of their political clout, not from actual residents, but from the presence of a large prison in the district. The districts with large prisons get to send a representative to the state capital to advocate for their interests without meeting the required number of residents … When districts with prisons receive enhanced representation, every other district in the state without a prison sees its votes diluted. And this vote dilution is even larger in the districts with the highest incarceration rates. Thus, the communities that bear the most direct costs of crime are therefore the communities that are the biggest victims of prison-based gerrymandering. The Census Bureau’s decision to count incarcerated people in the wrong place interferes with equal representation in virtually every state.” This website addresses this issue and offers solutions to deal with this democratic distortion. Points of entry include an explanation of the problem, the solutions, how to take action to combat this problem, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ), blog, latest news, campaign pages, legislation, local governments addressing the issue, video overview, journal articles, and reports.

Prison Gerrymandering Project Cover

Contents of these proceedings include: meeting highlights; "The Future of Jail Legislation, Resources, and Funding by Michael Thompson; "Legislation, Resources, and Funding: A Perspective From Our Professional Associations" by Stephen Ingley, Jim Gondles, and Tom Faust; open forum discussion with professional associations' representatives; "Handling Legislation and Dealing Effectively with Funding Authorities" by Calvin Lightfoot and Thompson; "The Role of Professional Standards and Internal Affairs" by Dennis Williams and Ralph Green; open forum -- jail issues for discussion; "The LJN Online and the NIC Web Site" by Tracey Vessels and Connie Clem; "Legal Issues Update" by William Collins; "Topics for the Next Large Jail Network Meeting" by Richard Geaither; meeting agenda; participant list; and "Links to Potential Federal Funding Sources and Internet Resources."

Proceedings of Cover

This website provides access to the report and webinar, both entitled, "Environmental Scan of Criminal Justice Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adult". The first step in addressing how we deal with young adults in the criminal justice system is knowing what is out there — and following up with open communication and collaboration. To help jump-start and inform the conversation, NIJ conducted an environmental scan to explore programs and legislation that address the developmental needs of young adults involved in the criminal justice system … The results of the environmental scan highlight the fact that formalized programs serving justice-involved young adults are diverse, jurisdiction-specific, and often rely on local expertise and initiative. Programs are categorized based on the lead organization within the justice system: young adult courts, probation/parole, district attorney offices, community partnerships, prison-based and advocacy and research programs. Some common approaches and strategies to address the needs of young adults were identified. For example, most programs used case management and provided intensive services for substance abuse and mental health problems, educational needs, vocational training and stable housing.

This report looks at reforms made by states to keep children out of the adult criminal justice system.

"In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice policy" (p. 4). Sections of this report include: about this report; introduction; reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting the reentry of offenders into the community; making better informed criminal justice policy; and conclusion. Two appendixes provide information about: sentencing and corrections legislation by state, 2013; and sentencing and corrections by reform type, 2013.

Recalibrating Justice: A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends Cover

This map shows those states that do or do not have laws prohibiting the sexual abuse of individuals in custody.

State Criminal Laws Cover

This map shows those states that do or do not have laws prohibiting the sexual abuse of individuals in jails.

State Criminal Laws Cover

This map shows those states that do or do not have laws prohibiting the sexual abuse of individuals in lock-ups.

State Criminal Laws Prohibiting Sexual Abuse of Individuals in Lock-Ups Cover


Subscribe to Legislation