New Report Finds Effectiveness of Drug Courts

New federal research is giving momentum to the call for reduced penalties and more rehabilitation for drug offenders – including juveniles – across the nation. A study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that alternatives to handling drug cases, such as specialized courts that usher more people into rehab, can sharply drop recidivism rates, scale back on overall crime and produce deep cost cuts in an overwhelmed criminal justice system. The report comes as the nation is in somewhat of a split over how best to handle many criminal cases, including drug offenses. As Massachusetts considers a crackdown on repeat violent offenders, the position by many lawmakers has been to ease drug penalties. In Missouri, legislators passed a bill to create more parity in sentencing for powdered and crack cocaine offenses.

Report Looks at Lives of Inmates Sentenced to Life Without Parole as Juveniles

With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in a case that could determine the constitutionality of life sentences without parole for juveniles, a new report looks at the lives of the more than 2,300 people currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed before they turned 18. The new report, “The Lives of Juvenile Lifers,” analyzes the findings of a first-ever national survey of this unique prison population. “The goal was to find out more about who these people are, their community and background,” Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which produced the report, said during a conference call Wednesday. Ashley Nellis, the report’s author and a research analyst at the Sentencing Project, said the intention was to highlight the individual stories of those serving sentences of life without parole. “A lot of times we hear solely about the offense for which they are serving,” she said.