Criminal Justice News Round-Up: July 13-17

It’s been a big week for criminal justice news. Here are a few of the top news stories, essays, and must-read articles from this historic week, good and bad:

Obama’s Call for Reform
Obama Commutes Sentences of 46 Nonviolent Drug Offenders
Kicking off his week of criminal justice reform, Obama freed 46 of the thousands of people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes in federal prison.

'Justice and Redemption Go Hand in Hand': A Closer Look at the President's Speech on Criminal Justice Reform
At an NAACP conference in Philadelphia, Obama delivered the most thorough and critical speech on the criminal justice system of any sitting president. This article rounds up some of the key passages from his address, and you can watch the full speech here.

Who Is Left Behind?
From a First Arrest to a Life Sentence
This in-depth article describes how Sharanda Jones went to prison for life on a single crack offense in which she was the middle man. It sheds light on the War on Drugs and the extreme sentencing that reigned in the 1990’s, and continues to affect people’s lives to this day, despite laws having been changed. She has already served 16 years and was not among the 46 people granted clemency.

I Have a Life Sentence for a Nonviolent Drug Crime. Clemency Is My Only Hope.
This op-ed written by Douglas Ray Dunkins Jr., a formerly incarcerated person, calls for more clemency by President Obama.

I Thought I’d Escaped Poverty, Then I Went to Prison
A powerful account by a formerly incarcerated woman on managing to overcome the poverty of her childhood and then being dragged back into it after being released from prison. This piece deeply challenges the idea that prison reforms or rehabilitates people.

You Just Got Out of Prison. Now What?
Two formerly incarcerated men have started a service to pick up people who are released from prison after long sentences. They built on their own experience of what they were shocked by, unprepared for, and needed upon release. They now use this knowledge to help ease newly free people back into the world.

Sandra Bland Drove to Texas to Start a New Job, so How Did She End Up Dead in Jail?
Sandra Bland, an outspoken civil rights activist, was pulled over in Texas for allegedly failing to signal. After pulling her from her car, police slammed her head against the concrete, as documented by this video. Days later, she was found dead in her cell. Police claim she took her own life, an account which family members, friends, and activists all maintain is not true. Sign the ColorofChange.org petition demanding justice for Sandra Bland. #JusticeForSandy